Health Care (Administration) Amendment Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 16:28 :35 ): I rise briefly on behalf of the Greens to make a contribution to the Health Care (Administration) Amendment Bill before us today. I note, as previous speakers have, that this is indeed the third time we have had this bill before this parliament. Previously, it has been debated but fallen foul of prorogation in 2013 and again in 2014. I am reminded somewhat of the Oscar Wilde quote, that perhaps to lose it once was misfortunate but perhaps to have lost twice this bill due to prorogation might be seen as carelessness. The third time is charmed, however, and I hope that we will see this bill come to fruition and become law.The bill deals with the fees for services provided by South Australian ambulance services, and I want to dwell on one part in my contribution which is those that do not involve ambulance transport. Section 59 of the Health Care Act 2008 allows the minister to set fees by notice in the Gazetteto be charged for ambulance services. An ambulance service is defined in the act as:

…the service of transporting by the use of ambulance a person to a hospital or other place to receive medical treatment or from a hospital or other place at which the person has received medical treatment.

The fees for ambulance services are currently set and charged under the Fees Regulation (Incidental SAAS Services) Regulations 2009 under the Fees Regulation Act 1927. The bill provides authority to the minister to set fees for ambulance services, in particular Treat no Transport services, under the Health Care Act 2008, rather than the current arrangements. It does not in itself, establish or alter the policy and practice of charging fees for ambulance services in our state.

I understand that this bill does not introduce fees for Treat no Transport ambulance services for the first time; fees are already in place, enabled through the Fees Regulation Act 1927. My understanding is that this bill simply enables them to be set under the Health Care Act 2008 in line with similar health-care fees.

While the Greens’ preference is that access to ambulance services be part of the public health system—whether the services relate to transport or other services delivered by the ambulance—we note that fees are already in effect for these services and that this bill here today does not set policy in this respect.

We sought clarification from the minister’s office in regard to some concerns raised with us by stakeholders during our consultations on this bill. I want to thank the minister’s adviser, Corey Harriss, for providing departmental advice in regard to the questions we raised and to our satisfaction. It is important to note that the proposed amendment will have no impact on the services being provided to senior citizens or someone, for example, experiencing a heart attack, nor will it impact people’s behaviour or affect the services provided by the South Australian Ambulance Service to the public.

The current regulations make it a requirement that the South Australian Ambulance Service will provide a service consequent to a 000 emergency telephone call, or other means, for a person who may have an injury or illness requiring immediate medical attention in order to maintain life or to alleviate suffering. This requirement is continued in this bill.

A decision to treat at the patient’s residence and not transport, or to treat and transport to a hospital emergency department, will be based on a patient’s medical needs as determined by the attending clinicians. The proposed amendment bill is administrative only and does not affect the services currently provided by the South Australian Ambulance Service, nor will it affect or influence public behaviour in accessing those ambulance services. As of 1 July this year, the incidental SAAS services(the Treat no Transport) fee is a flat rate of $200, while for holders of a valid prescribed concession card that fee is $101.

The Greens have consulted with stakeholders and taken those questions to the minister and had, as I say, an adequate response, and so we will say that we have no further questions to raise during the debate and look forward to the swift passage of this legislation.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.M. Gazzola.

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