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Speech: Health Care (Governance) Amendment Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:44): I rise on behalf the Greens to speak broadly in support of the legislation before us today, though there are some issues of concern that I will mention later on. It is certainly welcome to see the reintroduction of this bill. The government has kept some of the amendments previously passed by this chamber, and in particular the principle for the operation of the act, to ensure it is inclusive of primary healthcare networks, Aboriginal and Torres Strait health services and public health services provided in local government, aged care and disability; that service agreements specify that each health service provider must operate programs that promote the provision of health care for Aboriginal and Torres straight Islander people; and that the functions of an LHN governing board include ensuring that their LHN operates programs that promote preventative and primary health care, including the preventative and primary health care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within those local communities.

During the debate on this matter last year, I, on behalf of the Greens and indeed in alliance with various stakeholders in this field, voiced our concerns about the dissolution of the Health Performance Council. While the government has brought the bill back and with the amendments passed by this chamber previously, it seems that we have still not made headway on key points of contention amongst those stakeholders, and indeed voiced today by the Greens.

Many of those stakeholders—and I will note particularly headed up by the South Australian Council of Social Service—have continued to raise their concerns about the removal of the Health Performance Council for various reasons and I think it is important that those matters are addressed. The removal of the Health Performance Council results in a lack of independent monitoring, data analysis and reporting, as well as community or consumer engagement mechanisms. Currently, the data routinely collected and stored by the Health Performance Council is a valuable resource and could be used more effectively and transparently to inform both clinicians and consumers and enable the scrutiny and accountability of system performance.

By collecting and using this data independently, as a state we are actually able to examine the efficacy of care across the state for different user groups. With the dissolution of the Health Performance Council, I believe concerns remain regarding the lack of monitoring, data analysis and reporting as well as of course that community and consumer engagement mechanism. We must also note the importance of accessing and using a reliable evidence base in the form of good quality information and data analytics in order to design and implement sound health policy and implementation strategies informed by that consumer engagement and input.

As I did during the previous debate, I want to be clear that the Greens' intention is that we will not support moves to abolish the Health Performance Council until we see what is to be put in its place in greater detail, and even then we reserve our rights should those two roles not in fact be complementary and positive for the best health outcomes for our state. I do note that as a result of the debate last time around, an additional function of the chief executive of the Department for Health and Wellbeing was included in the bill and that involves engaging with consumer representatives and other interested parties in the development of healthcare policy, planning and service delivery.

This acknowledgement of the need to consult with consumers is important and welcome; however, under this bill we are still lacking that independent consumer voice as well as independent oversight. The does need to be addressed. I understand from debate previously on this bill, the minister believes input from those consumers will be picked up at the local level in our health system at the LHN level, but the Greens remain unconvinced that this will eventuate; in fact, at least uncertain that this will be the case.

In a modern health system, the time has long since passed where consumers were treated as simply passive recipients of that health service. We know that the consumer voice is vital to ensure that we get the best health services possible, but the voice needs to be real well resourced, respected and embedded in the system—explicitly embedded in our system.

With that, I conclude that the Greens support the broad intention of this bill and will support the second reading; however, we do hope that this chamber will address these ongoing issues around the Health Performance Council and that consumer voice matter that I have raised as we move through the committee stage.

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