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Repatriation General Hospital

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (14:54): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Health and Wellbeing a question regarding the Repatriation General Hospital.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: In December last year, I was contacted by a constituent who is a client of the South Australian Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service. Prior to the closure of the Repat, my constituent was undergoing rehabilitation there three times a week. Since the closure of the Repat, my constituent does not have access to rehabilitation facilities close to her home in the south and has been advised that she can either access the facilities at Hampstead or pay to access private facilities.

Whilst the rehabilitation services that were available at the Repat were not entirely suitable for those with a brain injury, the option was much better than driving for over an hour or having to cover the cost themselves. I understand the minister is currently considering options to establish a health precinct at the site of the Repat. My questions are:

1. When will the details of the health precinct be finalised?

2. Are there any plans to incorporate rehabilitation services, including hydrotherapy, at the Repat site?

3. If rehabilitation services are being considered, will the minister ensure they are appropriate for those with brain injuries to ensure there is not cognitive overload?

4. If rehabilitation services at the Repat site are not being considered, can the minister advise if there are plans to expand rehabilitation services in the south so that residents in those areas are not required to go without or travel to access these services?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:56): I thank the honourable member for his question. Obviously, all members of this house share the same constituents. I appreciate that your constituent is mine, and I suspect I have also had communications from the same person.

This case highlights what has been the experience of so many South Australians under Labor's toxic Transforming Health plan. No matter whether it was the downgrading of the community hospitals, such as Noarlunga, Queen Elizabeth and Modbury, and people having to travel further to the spine hospitals, or whether it was the dislocation of rehabilitation services with the closure of the Repat, this is the Repat that they promised a Labor government would never, ever close, and yet, in November last year, that's exactly what they did.

I think the honourable member mentioned a hydrotherapy pool. When the government did that in November last year, not only did it close the hydrotherapy pool at the Repat, it also closed the former hydrotherapy pool at the FMC, so it basically halved the access to hydrotherapy pool services in the southern region. What that basically meant is that hydrotherapy pool services were only available to inpatients. We had people speaking on behalf of the government who were basically saying, 'We are focusing on our core business. We are focusing on inpatients.'

It just shows you the myopic Transforming Health view that you are only a South Australian with health needs when you are acutely sick in a hospital. We are all South Australians with health needs. The government should be with us, supporting us to stay healthy and avoiding illness escalating to the acute phase rather than waiting for us all to land in a hospital.

If I can now turn more specifically to the three or four questions the member asked. If I remember rightly, one was: when will the details of the health precinct be available? I would suggest to the house that there are three particular waves of community consultation that will take place. Two of them will be absolutely crucial—in fact, perhaps all three of them, depending on how you read them. All three of them will impact on the shape of a health precinct, but let's be clear: the Liberal Party is committed to a genuine health precinct. What the discussion is about is how we maximise this opportunity.

The Labor Party broke a promise to never, ever close the Repat. They tried to sell it off, significantly under value, but thankfully the people of South Australia made it clear in March 2017 that they weren't willing to tolerate that and we now have an opportunity for a genuine health precinct.

I would suggest there are three ways of shaping that process. One is the finalisation of the plan. The former Labor government, on almost Christmas Eve last year, did a new development assessment plan that opened up the site to wholesale redevelopment. That plan was not gazetted until 23 January—so much for a government that believes in transparency and accountability. That plan is going to the Environment, Resources and Development Committee, and I am in the process of writing to that committee to suggest that the committee recommend to the Minister for Planning that the permitted uses under that plan be narrowed to reflect what the community would expect in a genuine health precinct.

The other process, which is already underway and which will become more formal in the coming weeks, is what I call the SA Health master planning process. It is this government's view that the public health assets of the south should, first and foremost, be available to provide public health services in the south. The process we are going through at the moment is with the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, in particular, to determine what are the best value uses it sees for the Repat site.

As I believe I have already reported to the council—I think it was last Thursday—I have had some very encouraging discussions with clinicians in the south in relation to possible uses. To be frank, the government itself, coming into the election and validated by the election result, has highlighted some particular assets we think would be useful for public health services; specifically, the surgical facilities, the hydrotherapy pool and Ward 18. However, that master planning process is underway.

The third process, which will be absolutely crucial to the development of the future shape of the health precinct, is what I would call the partnership dialogue. Once we know what the public health services will deliver on that site we can then have a conversation with community organisations, NGOs, the private sector, whatever it might be, about what other value-adds to health provision for South Australians could also be delivered on that site.

What we will not do is what the former Labor government did, which is say, 'Great, the private sector, NGOs, anybody can come in and tell us what they will buy the site for, but there will be no public health services on the site.' In our view, that is not the best way to get the best health use of that site. Unlike Labor, we want to have a true partnership between the public sector and other parties. That is the process.

In terms of when, which was the point of the member's question, I expect that process will take at least until August/September this year, so that we can have a better idea of what the future use of the site will be. I think the member asked if it will be available for rehabilitation services. I am very confident that there will be a major rehabilitation focus on that site, simply because the Labor Party wanted to trash tens of millions of dollars of high quality rehabilitation assets on the site. You had this rehabilitation building with a fourth-generation rehabilitation clinic only three or four years ago—perhaps six, time flies. Relatively recently, we had the Labor Party saying how they would open these great facilities, but within years they wanted to—

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The best in the state.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: The honourable member, who has not only worked at the Repat but who also has skills in the health profession, describes those rehabilitation facilities as the best in the state. A physiotherapist I spoke to recently described the hydrotherapy pool at the Repat as the best in the state. I certainly have a high expectation that rehabilitation services will be a major focus of the health precinct at the Repat going forward. In that context, the hydrotherapy pool, as I have already mentioned, is a key asset that the Marshall Liberal government expects will be a cornerstone asset in the genuine health precinct.

The honourable member refers to the constituent's concern in relation to brain injury services. To be frank, that is just another chapter in the Labor Party's degradation of health services. The BIRS service, which was previously located at Payneham, was transferred onto the Hampstead site. The Labor Party has failed to invest in the Hampstead campus for years. They tried to compress it into The QEH site but neither patients nor clinicians nor this parliament was willing to stand for that, and that was abandoned.

My understanding is that the current expectation is that it will be at least two years before the Hampstead site is vacated, but, in the meantime, as the honourable member highlights in his question, patients who have rehabilitation needs, whether they be inpatients or outpatients, but particularly outpatients, are needing to rely on travelling to the Hampstead site, even if they live at the other end of town. Implicit in the representations of that constituent to both the member and myself is that there is an opportunity with the Repat site to provide more accessible rehabilitation services to outpatients in the southern region. I am certainly very mindful of that opportunity and am keen for that to be part of the discussion.