The Role of HCASA 2002-2020
After almost 20 years serving health consumers in South Australia, Health Consumers Alliance of South Australia closed 30 September 2020. When the SA Government chose to cease funding to the HCASA on 30 June 2019, it made the decision, that independent systemic health consumer advocacy was no longer necessary in South Australia.
HCASA has been the recognised peak voice for health consumers in South Australia for almost 20 years. As expert partners, HCASA have worked with consumers, health services and government to improve health outcomes. With its closure, South Australia will be out of step with all other states, which have government funded, independent and systemic peak health consumer organisations, regardless of the governance arrangements between the State Health Department and Local Health Networks/Districts.
2018 State Budget – HCASA Defunded
In the 2018-2019 budget it was announced that HCASA was to be de-funded from 1 July 2019. This news was completely unexpected, particularly in light of the consistent positive feedback regarding the work with and for SA Health and South Australian consumers. The Hon Steven Wade the Minister for Health (now Health and Wellbeing) announced:
“With the establishment of 10 governing boards for the state’s health networks, the focus of consumer engagement will shift to the Local Health Networks as governance is devolved to the boards. Accordingly, grant funding for the Health Consumers Alliance will be discontinued from 1 July 2019”.
At the Legislative Council (Tuesday 18 September 2018) the Minister responded to questions about the defunding:
“The government is withdrawing central funding from the Health Consumers Alliance. The fact of the matter is that the Health Consumers Alliance already receives project funding from local health networks, and the government believes that, as we devolve management of health services to the regions, it also makes sense to devolve consumer engagement to the regions.”
“Statewide collaboration in relation to consumer engagement will be driven by the networks. Health Consumers Alliance has expertise in this area and, I believe, is well placed to undertake funded project work for local health networks. The alliance is a membership organisation and yet less than 1 per cent of its income comes from its membership fees. I do not believe it is healthy for a consumer advocacy body to be so reliant on centralised funding. I trust that the changes will promote accountability and strengthen the consumer voice.”
When asked why South Australia should be the only state in the country without an independent health consumer voice funded by government the Minister responded:
“I fundamentally disagree with the member’s negative anticipation of what will happen under the new model. I suspect, and I hope, that the Health Consumers Alliance will take up the opportunity to redraw their business model to make sure that they’re responding to the needs of consumers right across the health networks in South Australia. My view is that, if they do so, they’ve got a bright future in front of them.”