COUNTRY HEALTH SERVICES

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (14:53): My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister update the council on health services in country South Australia?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:54): I thank the honourable member for his question and, to be frank, his longstanding advocacy for the people of regional South Australia over a number of years. Country health services were notoriously neglected under Labor. Only one of many examples is the capital works backlog which the Marshall Liberal government inherited at the last election. It was more than $100 million in our hospitals, let alone the residential aged-care facilities. My understanding is, if you add both residential aged-care facilities and hospitals together, you are starting to approach $200 million.

In government, we are working to address this. Just some of the initiatives announced in the 2018 budget were $140 million for country capital works over 10 years, $2.1 million to expand and upgrade the renal dialysis unit at the Mount Gambier hospital, $1 million for safety upgrades to Lighthouse Lodge in Kingston, $7 million for the upgrade to the Murray Bridge emergency department, $8.5 million for Strathalbyn aged care and $300,000 to support Yorketown surgical services.

An area of particular need is in Mount Barker, with a rapidly growing population. Projections by the council suggest growth from 36,000 this year to 56,000 by 2036, an increase of 50 per cent. As a state public health service, we need to be well positioned to respond to this growth. I want to acknowledge the ongoing advocacy of the member for Kavel, Dan Cregan; the member for Heysen, Josh Teague; and Georgina Downer, the federal candidate for Mayo.

All three have written to me and lobbied me on a number of occasions to make sure the health needs of their communities are heard. An issue which has been significantly raised is an upgrade for the Mount Barker emergency department. I note that the federal member for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, has also recognised this need; I was just surprised to read about it in the local paper. To date, I have not received correspondence from the member for Mayo regarding an upgrade to the emergency department. Instead, she has chosen a political stunt rather than the meaningful engagement of other members and candidates.

I thank the members Dan Cregan and Josh Teague and the federal candidate, Ms Downer, for their work on behalf of this growing area. I assure them that the Marshall Liberal government will continue to give a high priority to the needs of Mount Barker and districts and to other South Australians who live in country areas.