The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (12:18): I also rise to speak on the motion brought by the member for Kaurna. The Port Pirie region has been serviced by a very prompt and efficient radiology and medical imaging service for many years and it is well respected and admired by the community of not only Port Pirie but also the vast surrounding regions, including the northern areas, the Clare Valley and also Yorke Peninsula.
I see no reason for the government to contemplate the idea of privatisation of these services when there has been no indication that the people operating these greatly appreciated services have had issues expressed to them by the hundreds of thousands of patients who have been provided with the relevant service. It is my understanding that the latest ultrasound machine in the hospital at Port Pirie is valued at over $1 million, is of the highest standard and was successfully argued for by many passionate people involved with the community and those who work in these areas.
I understand that the consultation paper issued to staff in February 2019 asked for submissions, which closed yesterday, 19 March 2019. The consultation paper is titled ‘Statewide Clinical Support Services, SA Medical Imaging, Port Pirie Medical Imaging, Private provider full service model’. I would be interested to ascertain when the local group was given the invitation to supply any documents regarding this organisational change.
For such a dramatic move, I would certainly hope that sufficient time was allowed for the submissions to explain the great and efficient service that has been undertaken by this very dedicated working group. It would be very interesting to know whether this consultation paper was also sent to local government councils. There are several that have many thousands of residents who live in the areas who utilise these services. To answer that, I made inquiries of the councils involved. To their dismay, they knew nothing about this proposal. The first indication they had was a phone call from me.
It is interesting that, according to my information, this consultation paper was only directed to staff and unions. I would have thought that the consultation for a service that affects thousands of people across a wide range of locations would have been promoted to these people. However, during my discussions with people across my electorate who utilise these services, and also with people I visit in areas outside my electorate for social and family events, they are amazed that the government is even contemplating such a move.
Their comments include ‘stupid’, ‘heartless’, ‘money grabbing’, ‘typical of government’ and ‘no consideration for people’. One of the most common comments is, ‘Does not surprise me as we are north of Gepps Cross.’ These comments are coming from people who supported this government in the last state election, and I would comment that their views of the party have changed since this proposed move.
It is a well-known fact that many families in Port Pirie and the surrounding areas may have to utilise these services, but what will the case be if it is privatised? Will there be any concessional or bulk billing for those who cannot afford to have these life-saving treatments? It is interesting to note comments in the consultation paper, such as: Engagement has already commenced with video conferencing with stakeholders, which included the opportunity for affected employees to speak with Employee Assistance Program providers.
Why is this, if a decision has not been made? Another comment is: A further site visit will be held that will include the opportunity for affected employees to speak with Human Services staff from Statewide Clinical Support Services.
Again, I ask why if no decision has been made? Another statement is: Following consultation etc., further communication will occur particularly as it relates to an implementation plan and the associated impact on staff, followed by engagement with stakeholders around planning for the implementation. Again, why are we talking about that in a consultation paper if no decision has been made?
Another part of the consultation paper states: The Employees Assistance Program provides that free confidential and professional counseling will be available. Again, why is that in a consultation paper if the decision has already been made?
The FAQs brochure also states: The benefits of the proposed model include improved access to medical imaging diagnostics and a more effective and value-for-money service.
It is also very interesting that the government spruik their support for the regions and the provision of more and better services, yet here we are again making decisions that will affect the regions. I strongly urge all members inthis house to support this motion and for the government to allow the current systems to prevail.
I heard the member for Giles say that if, for argument’s sake, it is not going to be privatised, please say so because privatisation is an issue that I believe is very detrimental to the people of regional South Australia. I certainly support the member for Kaurna’s motion.