APY Lands, Renal Dialysis Units

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister advise the council of opportunities to improve the delivery of renal dialysis on the APY lands?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:48): I thank the Hon. Mr Dawkins for the question. This week's federal budget brought very welcome investment in a range of health services. Some of those investments will make a significant difference for Aboriginal people with end-stage kidney disease living in remote Aboriginal communities, including people on the APY lands. The investments include $25 million over three years for an expansion of remote dialysis clinics in central Australia through the groundbreaking work of Western Desert Dialysis, otherwise known as The Purple House.

Purple House is an Aboriginal organisation which already operates dialysis units in eight Aboriginal communities. It also runs dialysis facilities in Alice Springs and Darwin, and the Purple Truck, a mobile dialysis bus. Unfortunately, a growing number of people from the APY lands are in need of renal dialysis, but the absence of a permanent facility on the APY lands means that people with end-stage kidney dialysis currently have to relocate permanently to Adelaide or to regional centres for their lifesaving treatment. Those relocations come at a significant personal, social and cultural cost to the patient, their family and their community.

Purple House has already been funded by the commonwealth government to build a dialysis unit in Pukatja on the APY lands, which I understand is expected to open next year. The other important announcement in this week's federal budget in relation to this issue is $34.8 million over four years to fund a new dedicated Medicare item for remote dialysis treatment. I understand that the MBS item will be introduced in November 2018 and is expected to provide a rebate of around $500 per dialysis treatment delivered in remote communities.

The creation of this new MBS item is, as Purple House CEO Sarah Brown said this week, 'absolutely a game changer for the delivery of dialysis in remote Aboriginal communities.' I congratulate Sarah Brown and the Aboriginal patients and their families who fought so hard for so many years for safe and sustainable permanent dialysis on their traditional lands.

I also want to acknowledge the advocacy of members of this and the other place in relation to this issue, including past and present members of the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee, particularly the Hon. Terry Stephens, the Hon. Tammy Franks, the Hon. Tung Ngo and a former member of the other place, Dr Duncan McFetridge.

A permanent dialysis facility on the APY lands is something that the Liberal Party campaigned on in the run-up to both the 2014 and 2018 elections. Before the recent state election, the Marshall Liberal government committed to improving Aboriginal health outcomes and to negotiating a fair fee-for-service price for each dialysis treatment session Purple House delivered to a South Australian patient in Pukatja.

At the time, we committed to providing up to $50,000 transitional funding as the facility moves to a fully-funded sustainable operation. Notwithstanding the announcement of the new MBS items, those commitments still stand and remain important. We are committed to ensuring the Pukatja facility is up and running as soon as possible and ensuring that SA Health does everything it can to ensure the smooth running of that facility in the long term.

This is another example of what can be done when governments work together to support regional, rural and remote communities on their journey to better health. I welcome the investment of the federal government and, in particular, the leadership of Purple House.