Epilepsy Centre

Epilepsy Centre

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:08): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Health and Wellbeing a question about The Epilepsy Centre.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Epilepsy can be a devastating condition to manage. The Epilepsy Centre in South Australia, in providing support to our community, is an absolute necessity. Epilepsy affects anyone at any age, and 61,000 people in a diversity of cohort in South Australia live with epilepsy.

SA and the Northern Territory are the only jurisdictions in Australia that do not receive government funding to support children and families living with epilepsy. Here, The Epilepsy Centre continues to provide support and services to those affected and is funded solely by private donations. Epilepsy is not just falling to the ground and shaking—a seizure can kill. The suicide rate amongst youth living with epilepsy is 25 per cent higher than that of the general population. It is a life of uncertainty, confusion, isolation and embarrassment, which no-one should have to endure alone.

The team at The Epilepsy Centre ensure that they don't have to endure this alone. They have been helping people for 40 years and work consistently and tirelessly to raise the awareness of epilepsy in our community but also to reduce the stigma and to provide, of course, that support for an inclusive society. That support includes such measures as a seizure monitor, which costs about $1,000 but means that a parent can sleep at night knowing that their child will not die in that bed.

They do this, as I said, solely by private donations. Government funding would help the centre employ additional full-time nurses, social workers and counsellors to manage the enormous workload. These workers, of course, would reduce hospital admissions and give families and individuals that much-needed support and community understanding by combating stigma associated with the seizures. My questions to the minister are: what efforts will the Marshall government make to ensure recognition that epilepsy is indeed a chronic health condition? What support will it provide to the good work of The Epilepsy Centre?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:11): I thank the honourable member for her question. I would just make the point that the honourable member is rightly highlighting one of the gross failures of the former Labor government. Particularly through the McCann review in 2011, there has been significant disinvestment in preventive health, leaving a gap to effectively tackle the challenges arising from the changing profile of community, the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and the rising levels of health inequalities. The honourable member rightly highlights the work done by a whole range of community organisations that are often disease or condition-specific, such as The Epilepsy Centre, but also broad community organisations, particularly the churches and other non-government organisations.

The Marshall Liberal government released two specific policies which demonstrate our commitment to reinvesting in preventive health, the first being 'Better prevention for a healthy South Australia' and the 'Targeted preventative health' policy. These are platforms which outline the vision and long-term approach for effective prevention in our state, with the aim of reaching all South Australians.

The honourable member's focus on epilepsy is particularly related to the targeted prevention strategy, because that talks about working with people who either have a condition or are at risk of a condition, to work with them to avoid the condition either onsetting or escalating. The sorts of tools that you mention in relation to epilepsy are the sorts of tools that would help a person who is living with the condition.

One of the key strategies under the preventive health policies, the pair of policies I referred to, is the establishment of Wellbeing SA as a prevention, health prevention and primary healthcare agency within SA Health, which will lead and support the implementation of the policy platforms. Creating good health and wellbeing for all people in South Australia is not something the health system can do on its own. Strong partners, including organisations such as The Epilepsy Centre, will be important. Strong partnerships across the sectors and with the community and the use of evidenced-based policy and practice and qualitative data for decision-making are all fundamental, delivering better preventative health outcomes.

Whilst we are still in the process of establishing Wellbeing SA, the government has already taken steps in relation to promoting good health in the preventive space with the establishment of the South Australian Healthy Towns challenge. It was launched in the first 100 days of government, and it will provide $1 million over four years to fund preventive health projects. Projects such as community projects related to epilepsy would be eligible for those grants.

I think it is a program that demonstrates what I was just saying about partnerships. We are strongly of the view that Wellbeing SA won't be merely a commissioning agency like a PHN, but will be a partner, perhaps brokering, blending, funding services, whether it might be a GP-based service bringing in Medicare-based funding, perhaps bringing in some Adelaide PHN money plus state government money. Certainly, I have heard of programs that blend those three elements in other areas of preventative health such as asthma, and a strong community-based program is also important in an area such as epilepsy.

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