Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (15:27): The electorate of Stuart is serviced by 17 country hospitals, nine of which are actually within the electorate and eight that are just outside the boundary of the electorate but happen to be the closest hospital to the people who live within the electorate. Everybody in this chamber knows how important I think Country Health is: health delivered in hospitals and also health services delivered to the people I represent from outside of those hospitals as well.
I am particularly concerned about the fact that Country Health SA is considering arranging a central packing and delivery service for Webster-paks. Webster-paks, as you may well know, are packs that are set up with a patient’s individual prescription needs for several days or a week at a time. They are prepackaged so that all the medication that has been prescribed will be available from one handy source in an organised way for those patients to access throughout the week. It helps to avoid any misunderstanding or accidental mis-dosing, getting times wrong, wrong tablets at the wrong time of the day or on the wrong day, etc. The patient can very easily work through the Webster-pak by following the instructions on the pack and the times, knowing that the right medication that has been prescribed is available and taken at the right time.
This service is typically available to country patients, including aged-care residents, by local pharmacies. Most towns in country South Australia that have a hospital also have a pharmacy or at the very least a pharmacy service that operates two, three or four days a week. If the government is considering centralising this service so that prescriptions are sent to a central place, perhaps in Adelaide, and the prescriptions are filled and the packs are made up and sealed in Adelaide and then sent back to the country towns for their use by patients, that would be a great shame. That is something I will fight against very deliberately and very hard.
That would create quite a few problems, number one being that the pharmacies in these local areas would lose a significant amount of business and that might put their overall business at jeopardy, so they may then not be able to be economically viable to provide the other important pharmacy services that they do in country areas.
If there is some mix-up with regard to the packing of these Webster-paks, then how would the patient go back to the central service area in Adelaide or potentially another regional centre to get the mix-up corrected? This would all be happening a long way away from the prescribing doctor and/or the pharmacist the patient is used to dealing with. A pharmacy on the spot could very quickly rectify the problem, get the correct medication to the patient, whereas a remote pharmacy service would not be able to do that quickly.
The other thing is that, typically, the pharmacy that provides the service charges for the prescription medication that is filled and charges a very small fee for packing the Webster-paks. It is hard to imagine that there would be any significant cost saving to Country Health SA or to anybody else involved in the situation by having the service provided in a central location because, if it is already a low cost for the actual packing, it is hard to imagine that there would be a significant saving. I do accept the fact that Country Health SA needs to find savings where it can, but it is hard to imagine that that is something that would be achievable in this situation.
I put on notice the house and I put on notice new health minister Malinauskas that this is a matter which everybody who has a care for country health across our state needs to be aware of, and I ask the government to make very plain its intentions. If the government can come out very quickly and say ‘No, this is not happening,’ then I will welcome that statement, I will be satisfied with that statement and I will consider my work in this area to be done.
If the government cannot say very quickly that it is not considering pursuing this matter in the way that I have been told the government is considering doing, then let me say very clearly the government will have a fight on its hands in this area because this will be to the detriment of the people who receive these prescriptions and also to the detriment of people who use pharmacy services throughout country South Australia.