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Tuesday, 19 February 2019
Page: 13975


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (19:40): There is a well known quote:

You can have all the riches and success in the world, but if you don't have your health, you have nothing.

Survey responses in my community show that health is the most important issue to us. More than 5,000 people have responded to my survey over my time as the member for Mayo in this parliament, and health is our No. 1 priority. I have repeatedly campaigned for greater access to affordable health care in Mayo. I have worked with the community to secure expanded headspace mental health centres for our young people, a Medicare-rebate-eligible MRI service, 24-hour doctor service at our Mount Barker hospital and a Medicare service counter at Victor Harbor.

I've had many successes. But the lack of renal dialysis service in the Adelaide Hills was a problem that I was determined to resolve. The lack of dialysis services has had a profound impact on the families in my electorate who grapple with the physical, emotional and financial burden of travelling to and from metropolitan dialysis services. Many of these people are not eligible for the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme. However, today Country Health has finally recognised the urgent need for a renal dialysis service in the Adelaide Hills; something I have campaigned on for over two years. Country Health will shortly place three dialysis chairs at the Mount Barker District Soldiers' Memorial Hospital. They will be co-located within the chemotherapy unit. Up to 12 patients will now be able to access dialysis service, saving these patients and their families at least 1,872 trips to Adelaide each and every year. This is just fantastic news for our community and will make a very real difference to those families.

However, we cannot rest. We always need to make sure we futureproof our health services, and the next priority is to upgrade the Mount Barker hospital emergency department. Local health professionals tell me that the emergency department is fast approaching the end of its life and will simply not be fit for purpose within 12 months, with the limited physical space already impacting on service delivery. For example, there are not enough consulting rooms. The resuscitation room is too small. The number of beds in the department should be doubled. The population in Mount Barker is currently 36,000 and is set to grow to over 56,000 by 2036—not far away for such a significant increase. With hospitals in our outer region such as Mount Pleasant and Strathalbyn reducing their emergency services, the pressure on Mount Barker hospital is immense and will only continue to grow as more and more people are forced to travel from the smaller satellite towns.

Providing health services to our region will often come at a disproportionately high financial cost due to smaller populations. But this should not justify the removal, reduction or refusal of essential services to those living outside of the metropolitan area. Rural health matters, and that is why earlier this month I wrote to the state health minister, the Hon. Steven Wade, to request that essential upgrades to the Mount Barker hospital emergency department be listed as a priority project, and one certainly worthy of the federal government's $1.25 billion investment into regional hospital infrastructure through the federal government Community Health and Hospitals Program. The upgrade of the Mount Barker hospital emergency department already forms part of SA Health's 10-year local health plan for the Adelaide Hills between 2011 and 2020, and has the full support of the Mount Barker District Council. And I won't stop there. I will continue to campaign for a Medicare-rebate-eligible MRI licence in Victor Harbor and an increased number of ambulances to service our communities.

I will say that going hand in hand with health services are aged-care services. We need to make sure that Mayo, as the oldest electorate in South Australia, has enough aged-care services, both residential beds and care in the home. As I said, we need to plan for our future.

So I will continue to fight to make sure our health services are able to meet the growing demand and the growing need, that they are fit for purpose and that they enable our medical professionals to deliver the highest possible standard of care to our community now and into the future.