Hydrotherapy Services

A question for the Minister for Health - Hydrotherapy Services at Flinders and the Repat Hospital.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a
question to the Minister for Health on the subject of hydrotherapy services at Flinders and the Repat.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Hydrotherapy services at the old Flinders pool and the Repat
pool have been used by approximately 200 people at Flinders and nearly 300 at the Repat—and I
must declare that I am a former employee of the latter. Amongst these people are acute patients
using it for rehabilitation as well as some self-help individuals who are managing their own chronic

In August the government faced a public backlash and was forced to backflip on an
announcement made that the new Flinders pool, to open in November, would primarily be for acute
patients; the government admitted that it underestimated how many self-help users made use of the
services. As a result of this backflip, the government has agreed to provide access to the new pool
to current self-help users; however, the sessions offered—three per day for five days a week plus
one on Saturday mornings, with 17 spots in total—accommodate a total of 272 people, far short of
the approximately 500 that use the services weekly. Furthermore, advice from constituents is that
they are no longer able to book a spot on an ongoing basis. My questions are:

1. Can the minister confirm that there are only three sessions per day available to the
community-based hydrotherapy pool users and only 272 spots per week?

2. How is this honouring the government's commitment to provide access for those
existing self-help users?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Health, Minister for Mental Health and
Substance Abuse): I thank the honourable member for her important question, providing
me with the opportunity to refer, yet again, to the in excess of $180 million investment this state
government has made in the Flinders Medical Centre—which, of course, includes a brand-new
hydrotherapy pool that will be of extraordinary benefit to the people who use those facilities. In fact,
I have had the chance to see that pool while being there with patients who will be the type to benefit
from it, and they are very excited at the prospect of being able to use a brand-new facility.

It always perplexes me that those opposite seem to be fundamentally opposed to the
modernising of our health system. Whether it be changes in and around SALHN, whether it be
investments we are making at The QEH, or whether it be the branding of a brand-new, world-class
hospital, there always seems to be a way for the opposition to find something to criticise. Despite
that, we are pressing on with making sure that people in South Australia don't get access to buildings
that were built in the fifties or sixties, but instead get modernised healthcare facilities.

In response to the specific nature of the honourable member's question, it won't surprise the
general community that our primary function at SA Health is to look after those people who are within
our care. That is what will be occurring at the brand-new hydrotherapy pool. To the extent there is
additional capacity available when that pool is not being used by patients who are under our
immediate care, we will be working to make that access available. There have already been
extensive discussions that have taken place with many of those self-help users to try to
accommodate their requests.

We are also hopeful, and have had discussions with the ACH Group, that the existing pool
(the old pool) at the Repat could continue to be made available to public services into the future, but
that of course is principally a matter for ACH. We have been working with ACH to try to facilitate that,
and we look forward to ACH potentially making announcements about that in due course.

Nevertheless, the government's priority remains making sure that those people who are in
the care of SA Health, those people who are currently patients of SA Health, who need access to
hydrotherapy services get it at the brand-new pool and that where we have additional capacity and
have the ability to be able to provide for self-help users to gain access that we accommodate that

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: A supplementary question arising from the minister's
answer: do I take it then that what the minister is saying is that acute inpatients or specific outpatients
of SA Health get higher priority than people who are trying to manage their own chronic conditions?
Is it the government's policy then that they don't really support primary health and people doing their
best to manage their own conditions?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Health, Minister for Mental Health and
Substance Abuse: With all due respect, I don't think that is an accurate representation of
what I have said, except to say that naturally those people who are existing patients of SA Health
have to be the priority in terms of getting access to those services. Where we can accommodate
other people getting access to the pool for the purposes of self-help, then of course we actively
encourage that, welcome it and help facilitate it. But it goes without saying that the people who are
within the care of SA Health, who need access to hydrotherapy pools, need to be sure that we can
provide for that, and that is exactly what we will be doing at the brand-new pool that the government
has built.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: A further supplementary arising from the minister's
original answer in relation to negotiations with ACH: can the minister update the house on where
those negotiations are at in terms of the hydrotherapy pool?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Health, Minister for Mental Health and
Substance Abuse): What I can confirm is that this issue has been discussed with the ACH
Group, and to the extent that the government is able to advocate for the existing use of that pool in
a way that benefits potential self-help users, we will continue to do so and we will continue to work
with ACH to see if we can't facilitate that, notwithstanding the fact that that will ultimately be a
responsibility for the ACH Group.