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Funding for Country Health

Radio Broadcast

John Darley, Advance SA MLC (5AA 9.42-9.49) Funding for country health

(Byner: Now yesterday … we had a really interesting discussion about our health system and we spoke to Peter Rischbieth who’s the guy that speaks for country doctors … there is a massive problem with getting GPs and doctors into regional South Australia. During that discussion, I got an email from Ian at Kapunda … it says, “Every country town who is lucky enough to still have their hospital, do very active fund raising but we cannot give the money to the hospital in cash because SA Health have just taken it and they spend it where they want. The people in our town have got around that by buying specialised equipment and donating that instead. It’s sad that bureaucrats have forced it to be this way. No wonder country people have a feeling that their health system has eroded” … I thought … if that is what’s going on, I don’t think it’s kosher. Well here’s a bloke who can tell us … John Darley … what’s the deal on this?) Well perhaps I better explain the organisation to start with. In South Australia, public hospitals are run by a Government Department, SA Health and their responsibility is for the ongoing maintenance and provision of services, capital works etc and the money that they use comes from the taxpayer. Then we have another organisation called the Charitable Gifts Board … that’s a statutory authority set up by the Government … that authority receives gifts, bequests and donations made either to them or particular hospitals … in a lot of cases they have terms of reference attached to the gifts … the funds that’ll be used for cancer research … or it could even be used for patient amenities … the third organisation is the one I think you’re talking about. Country hospitals have a health advisory council. These were formerly the hospital boards and these organisations are there to advise SA Health on any matter concerning the particular hospital. They can also receive gifts, bequests and donations from individuals and from fund raising. A lot of the time they invest that money with the Charitable Gifts Board because they get a better return on it but … if a country hospital wants to use some of the funds from gifts or bequests that come to that particular hospital, they have to make a request to the health advisory council. They cannot demand that that money be spent in the hospital any way they like. (Byner: So that’s why if they … collect the money and then buy a piece of equipment, then that gets around that problem?) Yep, exactly … and it’s a simple matter for the hospitals or SA Health in that hospital to say … “We’ve got a need for this” and the Health Advisory Council might say … the community might embark on a fundraising exercise for that but they cannot demand that from the Health Advisory Council or the community … they can’t dictate to that organisation what any gifts are used for. (Byner: So the moral of this story is that if you fund raise for a hospital or you bequeath money … if you want to be sure that it’s spent for the purpose for which you might go out and fund raise, you actually are better off buying the equipment specifically …and donating it?) Yeah. But if the system works okay, the community would work … hand in glove with the Health Advisory Committee which is made up of community people in any case and they’d work collaboratively together and say … well we’re going to raise some money for this particular item and that would be okay but SA Health cannot dictate to the community what they do with any money that they get from fundraising. (Byner: So do you think that’s the best system that we’ve got?) Well that’s the system that we’ve got at the moment … in the majority of cases that works but the trouble is … these health advisory committees were formerly the hospital boards … the new … Liberal Government, I think they have a policy initiative whereby they’re going to reinstate hospital boards but either way it’s the hospital health advisory committee who receive money from the community for particular purposes but SA Health cannot dictate how that money is used. (Byner: .. thank you for clarifying this. There is another story in the making that I’m aware of about people stopping to deliver mail somewhere, put a letter in the box, the car’s running, the driver’s in the seat, somebody pings them for parking. I’m definitely going to talk to you about that when you get more info.) Okay. (Byner: John Darley from Advance SA).