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Repatriation General Hospital

Mr WINGARD (Mitchell) (12:05): I rise today in support of the motion put forward by our leader:

That this house —

(a) notes that more than 119,000 people have signed petitions opposing the closure of the Repatriation General Hospital, more than 88,000 of which have been tabled in this house; and

(b) urges the government to heed the call of the petitioners and the veterans on the steps by reversing its decision to close the Repat.

I worked very hard with a lot of other people in this place to collect those signatures; in fact, it was not that hard. We would go to shopping centres, and people would flock to us. They wanted to come to sign and they wanted to let the government know and more importantly listen to the fact that they did not want this facility to close. Alas, the government continues to turn a deaf ear on what is going on.

The veterans were often talked about, and the veterans who slept on the steps for 160 days, as the member for Finniss before mentioned, were really revered by the people out there in supermarkets and in my community, and they were admired for the stand they took in trying to save the Repatriation Hospital.

Last October I tabled 1,000 more signatures for the petition, so it just kept going on and on, and people today, when we are at shopping centres, still come up and talk about it and say what a disgrace it is that this government is going to close the Repatriation Hospital. We know the services they provide, and that is what is talked about a lot—elective surgery, outpatients, urology—and where these patients will go is still very much in the air. The rehab facilities that are offered through the Repatriation Hospital are used and loved by all, and the facility is very much appreciated by the community, and they are very concerned about it moving on. Likewise, as the leader pointed out, the Daw Park Hospice is another service very much loved by a lot of people right around this state.

We know that in the past former premier Mike Rann said that the Repatriation Hospital would never close under a Labor government. We are hearing a lot of this rhetoric, and they are saying that it will never ever close, as the member for Finniss points out, yet it still did. John Hill, the health minister at the time, made the same comments, but now this Labor government is going back on its word and closing the hospital. They are putting it under the guise of Transforming Health, and they are blaming the feds for a lot of it.

Transforming Health seems to be 'closing health' from what I can see and from what people are saying to me when I am out on the streets. They are blaming the federal government for closing three hospitals, as we know, through Transforming Health: Hampstead, the Repatriation General Hospital (that we have talked about) and St Margaret's. They are playing the blame game with the feds, yet no other state is looking at closing hospitals and they are operating under the same federal scheme and budget as South Australia.

We also heard the member for Waite saying before that this government would listen to the people of South Australia, when clearly they have not. He also spoke about where monies would come from. It is a very notable point that the people of South Australia are really starting to see this and scratch their heads when they think about the $644 million blowout on the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. That is something that could run the Repat Hospital for 30 years. The savings on the blowout that this government has had on the new Royal Adelaide Hospital—$644 million—is money right then and there that could run the Repat for 30 years. It is quite amazing when you look at it.

More alarming than this is Transforming Health becoming 'closing health'. We know that the Premier has been looking to the feds and blaming them, and he is looking for a cash grab. He is talking about a GST and needing more money, taking more money from South Australians, not to make a better tax system but to grab more money from South Australians. They have done it with the ESL. They continually take money out of the hip pockets of South Australians to prop up their mismanagement, and I talked about the mismanagement on the building of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital to the tune of $644 million. How do they get it back? It is increased taxes. It has hit South Australian families and people out there on the street. They take money from their hip pocket to cover up what they have so poorly mismanaged from the budget point of view. So we look forward at Transforming Health and we fear that it is, in fact, closing health, and we look at the other hospitals as well.

I know we have had to fight very hard to keep the Flinders neonatal intensive care unit intact and that took a lot of campaigning. The level six operation, of course, is very important to the people of that area and I know that my daughter is very grateful, and my family is very grateful on my daughter's behalf, that she had such great care when she went through the level six neonatal intensive care unit at Flinders. A big fight ensued and we are glad that the government listened and agreed to keep that open, because that was another part of the closing health operation that they were trying to impose on South Australia. We can also talk about Noarlunga Hospital. A lot of people contact me about this.

A lot of people talk to me about Noarlunga and the emergency department, which has been significantly downgraded. We know the government wanted to close the emergency department in Noarlunga but, again, there was people power and we had to fight very hard to make sure that stayed open, and we are glad that it has. If we look at what the Premier said just the other day on radio, I think this is the big concern for all South Australians, again, as we work through the Transforming Health program the government talks about which is, in fact, proving to be closing health.

The other day on radio the Premier was asked about whether or not hospitals will close, because it does not look like he will be able to increase the GST and increase extra taxes as he so desperately wants to do. He was asked whether he will close more hospitals and he said, 'Absolutely. That is certainly the prospect if we cannot get a response to the funding gap.' The Premier is talking about closing more hospitals, and that has people in the south, especially people who use and rely on the Noarlunga Hospital, rather concerned. We know that the Premier has looked at downgrading and shutting down elements of the Noarlunga Hospital in the past and, after that comment that it is certainly a prospect that they will look at closing hospitals if they cannot find the funding gap, the people around the Noarlunga district and the southern end of Adelaide are very concerned about what might ensue with the Noarlunga Hospital, and they have every right to be concerned. The Premier has made no bones about the fact that he will look to cut hospital services, and that is incredibly alarming.

I have attended forums about the Noarlunga Hospital with the Shadow Minister for health and spoken to many people in my electorate about how important the Noarlunga Hospital is and the role it plays in their lives so we know we need to fight very hard to maintain these services in that area in light of what the Premier is saying he is wanting to do. All in all, the Transforming Health policy that the government is talking about really is shaping as a closing health policy and there is big reason for people out there to be concerned. As I pointed out, we have seen what is happening with the Repatriation Hospital and we know the anger that has caused—and, again, across the board at Hampstead and St Margaret's.

Closing hospitals in South Australia has people up in arms, the Repatriation Hospital more than any. We look across the suburbs (I know it is happening in the north as well but I will speak more about the south where people in my community live and operate and need these services), and people are concerned that the Premier and the government is looking to close down these services. It is alarming and they have reason to be alarmed. The government must not do this. We know in relation to the Repatriation Hospital, the number of people who signed. Again, I want to pay tribute, in closing, to the people and the veterans who sat on the steps and fought so very hard to keep this alive. They did a marvellous job. We call on the government, as the member for Waite said, to listen and hope that what they say is not just lip service. The government must listen and must act and save the Repatriation Hospital as the people of South Australia have asked.

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