Country Health SA

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (14:48): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Health and Wellbeing a question about Country Health.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Members of the council will know of my support for country South Australians across a range of issues, from my sponsorship of the Country Press SA Awards, some of which have highlighted mental health awareness, to other particular health challenges faced in rural and regional areas. Will the minister update the council on improvements to health services in rural and regional South Australia?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:49): I thank the honourable member for his question and his ongoing support for rural and regional South Australians and their health care. The former Labor government had no interest in country SA; the focus throughout its 16 years of government was the metropolitan area. The Marshall Liberal government has made a strong commitment to change that and this government is committed to addressing the imbalance.

We have already seen changes, and one of which we are very proud is the rollout of clinical support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for potential stroke patients in rural and regional hospitals. Through this program, neurologists at metropolitan stroke units will be able to support country stroke patients at the state's 61 country hospitals via phone and videoconference at any time of the day. This new and improved model of care enables faster and more accurate decision-making, which will lead to improved patient outcomes.

In the case of a potential stroke, it is important to identify quickly which patients are suitable for transfer to Adelaide and which can receive their treatment close to home. Neurologists from metropolitan hospitals will be able to assist in this process. The two main types of acute stroke treatment are thrombolytic therapy, which uses medication to break down clots and remove the blockage and blood flow to the brain, and endovascular thrombectomy, which involves surgery to remove the clot from the brain.

Thrombolytic therapy has been available for several years to stroke patients at three country stroke services—Mount Gambier, Whyalla and the Riverland—with the support of metropolitan stroke units. Until last month, this service was only offered during business hours, Monday to Friday. Now, with additional support from metropolitan neurologists, this will expand to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The new model is especially important for those country hospitals where there are no CT facilities. Being able to videoconference will allow the neurologist at the metropolitan stroke unit to examine the patient remotely, supporting the local care team in determining the best care pathway.