Country Hospitals

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:06): My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister advise the council of any steps being taken to address capital works at country hospitals?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:06): I thank the honourable member for his question. I can understand the context of the member's question. The fact of the matter is, this government has taken power after 16 years of Labor where basically, except for money that they spent that was handed on from the commonwealth, the state Labor government spent very little on capital works in country South Australia, so much so that the outgoing government admitted that the capital works backlog was more than $140 million.

What we found in the last Labor budget was that $1.1 billion was dedicated for public hospitals—not a single dollar was for country hospitals. We have about 25 to 30 per cent of our population in country South Australia. There are some members who are suggesting that people elected to this house represent—

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Point of order, Mr President: I know the honourable member is a new minister, but, really, he should have learnt by now that he should be addressing you, not the chamber.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you for pointing out that courtesy, Hon. Mr Hunter, but I wasn't taking it personally. Minister.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: I thank the honourable member for reminding me, and the President for his—

The PRESIDENT: His compassion.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: —compassion and tolerance. As I was saying to the house, through you, Mr President, the honourable member's question is very much in the context of Labor's neglect. It is all well and good for the Labor Party to celebrate a couple of members who have regional backgrounds in this house, but let's remember that the people of South Australia were sorely neglected by the former Labor government, and in the context of the $1.1 billion in the last budget, the government could not even find the $2 million that was needed for the Mount Gambier renal unit.

What happened in that context? What we found was that the hospitals were having to turn to their HACs, to their Health Advisory Councils, for capital works investments that you would normally look to from government. That had a double whammy effect. It meant that people were less likely to give to HACs because what they saw was what they thought they were getting through their taxes they were having to provide through their donations. It was also undermined by the fact that the government was continually enforcing ministerial approval requirements.

So, you had people who saw their own hospitals being neglected and yet when their community-raised funds were being allocated they actually had to get the approval of the minister who was denying them the taxpayers' funds to provide those facilities. I pay tribute to the country people for their continued patience with the state government in terms of health investment because, in spite of that bleak environment, people did continue to donate. Donations did fall, I must admit, but people did continue to donate.

So, let's see what has happened in recent months because of the stellar community spirit in country South Australia. South Australian country hospitals and an aged-care facility are undergoing a range of upgrades thanks to the ongoing commitment of regional communities through their HACs. The health advisory councils are funding upgrades at the Laura hospital in the Mid North, Tumby Bay Hospital on Eyre Peninsula, Angaston hospital in the Barossa Valley and hospitals in Waikerie, Karoonda and Meningie in the Riverland, Mallee and Coorong.

So, in a situation where the state government put down a health capital works budget of $1.1 billion—it couldn't find a dollar for country hospitals—we found the bequest going to the Waikerie HAC, where the council elected to renovate and convert rooms at the Waikerie aged-care facility into single rooms, costing around $1.8 million. I imagine the irony would not have been lost on the people of Waikerie that the Labor government in the city was spending $2.4 billion building a hospital with single rooms when they had to put up their $1.8 million to convert their aged-care facility into single rooms.

At Karoonda the HAC is spending $100,000 resurfacing the car park. At Laura hospital the HAC is spending $317,000 this financial year, and $470,000 in total, renovating and enlarging the kitchen and equipping it with freezers. People, I think, have the right to say, 'Doesn't every hospital have to have a kitchen? Why are we having to use our community raised funds because of the former Labor government's lack of willingness to invest in country hospitals?'

Meningie hospital will receive a $50,000 facelift to its outdoor landscaping of gardens, Tumby Bay Hospital will be having a laundry refitted and asbestos cladding removed at a cost of $100,000, while at Angaston hospital the HAC will spend $150,000 refurbishing consultants' rooms.

As a move to the next budget, this government will be delivering on its commitment to invest in country hospitals, but on behalf of the people of South Australia, particularly the people of country South Australia, I would acknowledge the stellar contribution of HACs over many years.

The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: I can look after myself, Hon. Leader of the Opposition. The Hon. Ms Bonaros—sorry, a supplementary; sorry, Mr Hanson; I thought you were jumping the gun.