Labor concerned over health councils

UNHEALTHY: Labor warn that Health Advisory Councils could be abolished under new governing boards.
UNHEALTHY: Labor warn that Health Advisory Councils could be abolished under new governing boards.

Health Advisory Councils (HAC) in regional areas such as Western Eyre Peninsula are under threat of being abolished, according to Shadow Health Minister Chris Picton.

But Health Minister Stephen Wade says the state government has no plans to abolish HACs.

The councils are consultative bodies that advise the Minister for Health on issues related to specific groups or regions.

Minister Picton believes the state government’s decision to give more authority to six new governing boards could result in a decision to remove HACs.

He pointed to recent comments made by Liberal MP Dan van Holst Pellekaan in Parliament when announcing new health laws as evidence.

“We want the boards to be able to make the decisions about whether they want to keep HACs in their area or not, or whether they want HACs to have more responsibility or less,” Minister Pellekaan said.

“To answer your question, the local board will decide if they want local HACs to have greater authority, greater responsibility or less.”

Minister Picton also criticised nine Liberal MPs for voting against Labor’s amendments to the Health Care (Governance) Amendment Bill – amendments which were previously introduced by the Liberal Party.

The reforms would have required that HACs:

  • must be consulted on major local health reforms;
  • must be allowed to give unfettered advice to the Minister or Department;
  • can regularly access financial reports

“Nine regional Liberal MPs have voted against giving their local HACs additional powers,” Minister Picton said.

“They said one thing in Opposition, but are doing another in Government.”

Minister Picton said that small communities would be left ‘without a health voice’ should HACs be abolished.

Health Minister Stephen Wade said HACs would continue to play a key role in health governance, in particular as a voice for local communities.

Minister Wade said the new governing boards for the ten Local Health Networks had a statutory duty to develop a community engagement strategy.

“The state government does not intend to mandate that process because each region is different,” he said.

“I expect the HACs will provide valuable input to the community engagement strategies of the Regional Boards, as many have very strong community links.”

“I recently met with the presiding members of the HACs to discuss the new board governance structure and I found them to be overwhelmingly positive about the reforms.”

Mr van Holst Pellekaan said it was appropriate that the six governing boards determine their own views about HACs.

“We want these people to have some genuine decision-making authority for their regions,” he said.

“They may choose to make a decision about HACs.”