The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:02): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Health and Wellbeing a question about increases to hospital parking fees for staff.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I understand that staff at public hospitals have the option of paying for parking. At the moment, this is at a cost of $21.59 per fortnight. However, I understand that this will increase to $49.50 per fortnight as of next year. Hospitals run 24/7 and therefore need to be staffed as such. Most staff work in shifts, which often means that people are either starting work or finishing work in the middle of the night or in the very early hours of the morning. Parking is often not a luxury but rather a necessity, given there is rarely public transport services available in the middle of the night.
This increase of 130 per cent is not a cost that can be easily absorbed by all, and there is concern that some may forgo this service because of the increase. This is particularly concerning because safety issues surrounding off-site parking have already been raised at a number of locations, and it is likely the number of people who are forced to park off-site will increase as a result of the government's increase. My questions to the minister are:
1. What considerations have been given to the safety of staff who will be forced to park off site due to the unaffordability of the increase?
2. Will safety and security measures be increased?
3. Will public transport services be increased, particularly for graveyard shift workers, to cater for those who cannot afford to drive into work and who will not take a risk on their safety?
4. Can the minister advise whether this increase in fees could be introduced incrementally over several years to lessen the impact on these workers?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:04): I thank the honourable member for his question. The state government and the state Treasurer had serious decisions that had to be made in the context of significant loss in GST revenue. In that context, the health department obviously needed to look at how we could make our contribution to making sure that our services are sustainable going forward. In the context of hospital car parking, I highlight that there have been no increase in car park costs at metropolitan hospitals since they were set in 2011, except for the Women's and Children's. So, fundamentally, in relation to costs of public car parks, the cumulative approved annual indexation in government fees and charges since 2011 has been applied.
In relation to staff in particular, I would just like to challenge the observation that the honourable member makes. He suggests it was a 130 per cent increase. The fact of the matter is that there were quite inequitable rates being charged by the former government. For example, there will actually be no increase at the Women's and Children's Hospital because they were already paying more than the fee that will be applied as a result of the recent budget. The Royal Adelaide Hospital, likewise: it's a much smaller increase than the honourable member was referring to. Staff rates are being linked to public transport charges. Staff are basically paying half the rate of public hospital car parks. It is also worth remembering that some staff are able to salary sacrifice.
I certainly appreciate the point the honourable member is making in the second question about safety and security, but I would make the point that charging is a blunt instrument to provide access to people who might need increased security. We add the security element through permits. For example, the Royal Adelaide Hospital has 6½ thousand staff members and more than half of those have staff car park permits. In relation to eligibility for those permits, priority is given to staff who are put in a situation where security could be an issue. For example, those on permanent night duty or permanent rotating shifts are eligible, as are people on on-call rosters and people with permanent or temporary disability.
In terms of the point the honourable member made in relation to public transport, of course this government will continue to improve to provide better services, and that includes public transport. In relation to the Royal Adelaide, to use that as an example, I just make the point that the new Royal Adelaide Hospital is better placed in terms of the public transport network. In the context of the member's last question, which was in relation to 'Wouldn't it be more sensible to make these charges incrementally?' I would like to ask that of the Labor treasurers in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. We need to make sure that we maintain our revenue base. It was because of Labor's mismanagement of not only the hospitals of this state but also the finances that we now need to do this catch up.