Health services in regional SA will be a critical component of next year’s state election, according to Opposition leader Steven Marshall.
Speaking to the Herald on Thursday, Mr Marshall said Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis’ claim that the new Royal Adelaide Hospital was SA’s largest regional hospital was ‘insulting’.
“It is insulting to every person living in regional SA,” Mr Marshall said.
“But this is a government which quite frankly, has no regard for people living in regional SA.
“The Premier recently said in the national press that there’s no votes for him in regional SA; an incoming Marshall government, if we’re fortunate enough to form government, would look after all South Australians, whether they voted for us or not.
“That’s what competent, representative government is about, not just having pet projects around marginal seats in electoral cycles.”
Mr Marshall – special guest at a Liberal function in the Barossa – said that was what SA had had for 16 years – “and I think most people appreciate that it hasn’t served us well”.
While he would not commit to a new Barossa hospital – which has been on the local agenda for more than two decades – he said a successful Marshall government would immediately address the emergency backlog in country hospital maintenance and safety upgrades.
“We will do that in the first two years, hopefully in the first year,” he said.
“Beyond that, what we need to do is to upgrade many of our facilities, but we’ll do that in line with our new governance structure which is about devolving responsibility back to the regions.
“I’ll be quite frank, both Ivan (Venning) and Stephan (Knoll) have been very strongly advocating for a new hospital in the Barossa, but we’re not ready to make any comment on that at the moment.
“We’re going to set up six regional health boards and then those boards will be able to inform their priorities for upgrades.”
He said it was “outrageous” that some regional communities were having to fundraise to ensure they had air conditioning in operating theatres.
“We don’t believe that the government centralised in Adelaide should be saying ‘this is what’s best for the people of the Barossa’.
“We’re going to put local people – clinicians, community leaders – onto those boards and they will develop the plans.
“We’re going to have a major focus on improving regional health services because we know this is one of the fundamental reasons why people decide to leave regional communities; if their health service isn’t up to scratch, they’re often leaving because of that, and we want to grow regional communities.
“SA’s cost of health is actually the highest per capita in the nation, with the equal worst outcomes – that’s unacceptable.”
Additionally, Mr Marshall said a Liberal government would lower the cost of living, electricity prices and water prices.
“You will have the emergency services levy remitted but most importantly, you’re going to have a growing economy and a government which cares about the entire state, not just marginal seats in metropolitan Adelaide – and health is going to be critical in the regions.”