Page 791/792                                       House of Assembly                                Wednesday, 8 April 2020 


The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:29): Today, I would like to talk about the Balaklava hospital operating theatre uncertainty. Some months ago, the operating theatre of Balaklava hospital was suspended pending a review on the condition and operating future of this facility. This facility has been used for many years and is operated by highly qualified nurses, anaesthetists and doctors. 

This move has caused several cancellations of procedures by visiting specialists and caused many procedures that could have been performed at Balaklava hospital to be transferred to Clare Hospital and, in some cases, to Gawler and other metropolitan hospitals. Regional hospitals, and in particular operating theatres, are a very important part of the community and also the smaller communities surrounding Balaklava. We have small communities like Owen, Hamley Bridge and smaller areas where there is no doctor but there are many aged-care facilities. 

I have had a meeting with the chair of the newly established local health board to place my concerns directly to the chair of the board. It is very frustrating because as the local member I am not entitled to or allowed to attend any of these newly established regional local health board meetings. I have written a letter to the minister asking why this is not able to be facilitated. 

At this stage, the review of this operating theatre has not been completed, nor has the review been published. As we can all appreciate, the local community has been very concerned about the future direction that SA Health has taken and is prepared to take with this facility. To the Balaklava community’s credit, they organised a petition to be circulated, and it was circulated between 5 March and 20 March this year. The COVID-19 issue has curtailed the time available. 

However, to the credit of the community, and also Geoff and Lyn, the organisers, they obtained over 935 signatures requesting that the Minister for Health and Wellbeing cease this review and have an urgent review of the facility undertaken. Unfortunately, this petition, which I picked up at the weekend, was not formatted in the correct wording and could not be presented directly to the Parliament of South Australia. In their haste, there was no communication between my office and the community to be able to get the correct wording. 

As a result, I have written to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing and received the communication advice that he is very aware of the community’s feelings. The petition has now been delivered to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing, and to ensure that the petition gets the attention of the minister I have also had direct discussions with the minister’s department to explain why we need to go through this procedure, not being able to present it directly to the Parliament of South Australia. 

I would sincerely hope that the minister hears the concerns of the community of Balaklava and ensures that the operating theatre at Balaklava hospital is retained and continues to facilitate procedures that can be performed at the hospital. Wakefield Regional Council, the local doctors and the general community are combined in their efforts to get specialists to visit and perform procedures at Balaklava and for the locals not to have to travel long distances to have these issues attended to. As I mentioned to the chair of the local health board, there are many community people who do not have a motor vehicle or cannot drive to other locations to have their procedures attended to. 

The comment was made that we have volunteers out there in regard to ambulance and other organisations. However, due to the strict and extra requirements for volunteers of SA Ambulance, the number of volunteers in the Balaklava area has dwindled from 22 to eight, creating a lot of issues and uncertainty. There is also a very large strain on existing volunteers to transport these people, as I said earlier, and we need to look at ways to encourage people to volunteer their time at times suitable to them and not be dictated by an eight-hour shift. 

I ask that before the minister moves forward with any review of the Balaklava theatre he makes certain he has public consultation and open discussion about retaining the facility in its current form.