REGIONAL HEALTH SERVICES

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: In that vein, I was delighted to participate in the forum to establish a suicide prevention network in the Barossa, attended by 150 people at Nuriootpa on Monday night. Will the minister update the council on regional health initiatives for people beyond the reach of our hospital network?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:43): I thank the honourable member for his question. The Marshall Liberal government was elected with a strong commitment to reverse the neglect of country health services after 16 years of Labor. We have already started investing $20 million in a rural health workforce strategy. We have already started investing $140 million over 10 years to address the backlog in country capital works. We have invested another $50 million in individual health projects in rural areas, including upgrades to the Mount Gambier hospital and Healthy Towns Challenge.

Today, I want to highlight a recent investment by the Marshall Liberal government in services to rural and regional areas. The Marshall Liberal government has provided 23 powered stretchers to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The stretchers are an investment by the Marshall Liberal government of $325,000 and they replace the manual stretchers used in the past by the Royal Flying Doctor Service with new stretchers used by the Ambulance Service. Having the same stretcher in RFDS planes and in South Australian Ambulance Service vehicles means that critically ill patients across South Australia will be able to transfer seamlessly between an ambulance and an aeromedical aircraft and, on their arrival, back into an ambulance. This initiative is the next step in a decades-long partnership between the South Australian government and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

These stretchers mean that patients will be provided with additional comfort, support and safety, giving patients a range of positions to better provide for their health needs, and they are easier and safer to get on and off vehicles. This will not only provide greater patient comfort, it will also support the workplace safety of our health professionals.

When powered stretchers were deployed across SAAS patient and staff safety was enhanced, with 46 per cent fewer injury claims since their introduction. So I am delighted that, having delivered positive outcomes for health professionals in the Ambulance Service, that high level of safety will now be available to help professionals working in the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

In addition to the powered stretchers provided to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the government was delighted to witness the arrival of the new Med-Jet 24, with the capacity to carry three patient stretchers—a 50 per cent increase—and travel more swiftly than its fixed-wing contemporaries. My understanding is that the Med-Jet 24 could actually fly from Darwin to Adelaide without refuelling. This will literally be a lifesaver for country South Australians and other South Australians as they travel to the country, and it was a privilege to be present at its arrival.

These initiatives may not make headlines but they make a difference to the lives of country South Australians, and they are just more examples of the Marshall Liberal government working in partnership with health providers such as the RFDS to give quality and safe services to country South Australians.