Needle Exchange Program Funding
NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAM FUNDING
Ms MEAGHER (Cabramatta) [6.07]: This evening I advise the House of an important public health initiative about to be undertaken by the South Western Sydney Area Health Service and the Department of Health in my electorate. Honourable members may recall that a couple of weeks ago I advised that the Cabramatta community centre would be forced to wind up the secondary outlet needle exchange program on 30 June this year. The dramatic increase in the demand for the service, the absence of trained health professionals to administer the program and the lack of funding meant that the centre could no longer offer a needle exchange service to clients. I also advised that the present location of the secondary outlet at the multipurpose community centre was inappropriate because the increased number of clients using the service resulted in some complaints by other user groups.
The closure of this important harm minimisation program would have had a disastrous impact on individual health, and put the community at risk of communicable and deadly diseases such as HIV-AIDS and hepatitis C. When I last spoke on this topic I advised that unless the Government came to the party with the necessary funding there would be a health crisis in south-west Sydney. I am now pleased to be able to advise that subsequent discussions with the community centre, the Department of Health, the area health service, Dr Refshauge's office and me have resulted in a major breakthrough for the future of the program both in the short term and for a longer term integrated health service for the area. At a meeting between the parties held on Monday, 27 May, it was decided that the South Western Sydney Area Health Service would take over responsibility for the needle exchange program, which is a result that I welcome.
The South Western Sydney Area Health Service will commence negotiations with Fairfield City Council in order to secure a property in Cabramatta that has been assessed as a suitable location. The South Western Sydney Area Health Service has guaranteed to fund the program to the tune of about $100,000 a year. This will not only fund the equipment but will provide for 2½ trained workers to administer the program. While the site for the primary fixed outlet is being negotiated the Government has agreed to provide stopgap funding for the community centre and has agreed to continue the service until the new premises are ready.
The relocation of the service to an independent site is a vital step that over time will result in the establishment of a multiagency approach to the problem of addiction in the Cabramatta area. It is the intention of the Government and the South Western Sydney Area Health Service that over time other services may co-locate at the site and facilitate a whole-of-government approach to dealing with the problem. At the meeting to which I referred it was determined that the South Western Sydney Area Health Service would continue to develop its submission for the primary fixed needle exchange outlet, with special regard to services that may be run through the centre that would complement the detoxification unit to be built on the Fairfield District Hospital site. Other services being considered at the primary fixed needle exchange outlet include rehabilitation support and home detoxification programs.
I am pleased to advise the House that the South Western Sydney Area Health Service has confirmed that it is finalising a feasibility study to determine the exact cost of establishing a detoxification unit at the hospital, which is the final step before construction can commence. The Director of the South Western Sydney Area Health Service, Mr Ken Brown, has advised me that it is expected that the unit will be completed next year. The establishment of the primary service, which will be administered by trained health workers, will guarantee a better monitoring of clients and facilitate earlier intervention, detoxification and rehabilitation. Closer monitoring of clients will also ensure that the needle return rate, which is a real concern to the wider community, is greatly improved. The establishment of this service is the vital first step in breaking the cycle of addiction. I welcome these important initiatives, which will facilitate real change in the way addiction is managed in the Cabramatta area. For seven years the coalition failed to address the desperate need for detoxification and rehabilitation services in the south-west of Sydney, despite the alarming escalation in drug and alcohol abuse. A real long-term solution to the problem is now being initiated, and I am confident of favourable results.
Mr E. T. PAGE (Coogee - Minister for Local Government) [6.12]: I complement the honourable member for Badgerys Creek on raising this issue in a positive way some weeks ago and now telling the House that following negotiations with the area health service a solution has been found to the problem. That is in stark contrast to the approach of Opposition members, who did nothing about their problems for seven years but expect this Government to take the blame and take immediate action. I congratulate the honourable member on her progressive approach. She put a cogent case before the responsible authorities and the problem will be fixed by a government that is sympathetic to her.