Wednesday, 27 October 2021                    HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY                                    Page 8096/8097


The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:13): My question is to the Premier. Can the Premier update the house or advise the house if there have been any plans or investigations to identify whether our regional hospitals and medical services are adequately able to cope with any increase in services that may be required for the opening of the borders of South Australia? With your leave, and that of the house, sir, I will explain further.

Leave granted.

The Hon. G.G. BROCK: I am sure that other regional people have these same concerns and so far we have done everything right. To get into hospitals in Port Pirie and Port Augusta or see someone in the medical fraternity, you sometimes have to wait four or five hours at an A&E; secondly, to see your doctor sometimes takes four or five weeks. I am looking to see if there are any risk assessments and/or any investigations or plans to ensure that we have adequate services and resources out there in the regions.

The Hon. S.S. MARSHALL (Dunstan—Premier) (15:14): I can certainly reassure the house and the people in regional South Australia that we have done the adequate work to make sure that we have an appropriate model of care ready for when we open our state borders. I provided a great level of detail in answer to a very similar question yesterday from the member for Mount Gambier, but I am happy to go through it again today. We don’t envisage that the country hospitals will be the place where we are actually treating people with COVID.

In some instances, they may come into a local regional hospital, but ultimately the three hospitals that will be dealing with COVID-positive patients in South Australia will be the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the Flinders Medical Centre and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.  Whilst we don’t expect very many children to go into the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, because of the very low acuity for young people who contract this disease, we do expect there will be some numbers at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Flinders Medical Centre.

Regarding the split between the two, I am advised that at the Flinders Medical Centre there will be a focus on pregnant women who might be COVID positive—again, a very small cohort—but it will be the Royal Adelaide Hospital, with its superior facilities in terms of infection control, that will be doing the lion’s share of the work with COVID-positive patients.

Some states have already said they will take everybody in this state who is COVID positive into one of their hospitals. We haven’t done that in South Australia. What we have done to date is take people into the Tom’s Court Hotel. This has been an appropriate place to house all the COVID-positive patients to date, with those requiring further treatment to go into the Royal Adelaide Hospital. There has been very little transfer over the last 19 months because of the low numbers we have had in South Australia.

Going forward, we won’t be moving every person in the state who is COVID positive into the Tom’s Court Hotel. We will be adopting a different model that is very similar to the model that exists in the COVID states at the moment, like New South Wales and Victoria, where the vast majority of people who are COVID positive are at home. If they need to be hospitalised, then they will move them. That means we need to have effective methodologies in place to monitor the symptoms of those people who will be living with COVID.

This is one of the reasons we are encouraging every single person in South Australia to get vaccinated. The very best defence for South Australians against the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. The likelihood of contracting the disease once you have been fully vaccinated—two shots—is significantly lower. It’s not impossible, but it is significantly lower than if you have not been vaccinated.

You would have heard today that the Prime Minister has also announced there will be a third jab available. This is advice that has now been received by the commonwealth and made public immediately, that a third dose will be available. The time frame for that hasn’t been determined, but I’m sure that will be on the agenda for the national cabinet next Friday.

I can assure the people of regional South Australia that we will be taking every precaution.  One of the things we have done is put a very significantly larger number of beds in the total system in South Australia to allow for the potential beds that will be taken up with people who are required to be hospitalised. Similarly, the same situation exists for those people who ultimately need to go into ICU and onto a ventilator.

What we do know is that there are very improved methods of care. For people who are diagnosed with COVID-19, we are seeing much better recovery rates at the moment in our hospitals. I expect that with every week, every month, that goes by we will continue to learn about this disease so that we won’t see the escalation that has been a hallmark of the disease to date.