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Chemotherapy Treatment Error

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 17:05 :57 ): I move:

  1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on the chemotherapy dosing errors at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre in 2014 and 2015, with a focus on—

  2. the extent, if any, to which the culture, governance and management of the relevant hospital departments and their associated statewide services contributed to the risk of errors and the risk of similar errors in the future;

  3. SA Health’s and the government’s response to the errors, including the inquiry led by Professor Marshall and the interaction with the inquiry;

  4. the impact of risk management, including management of legal risks, on the support of victims and the transparency of the health system, in particular the use of confidential agreements in this context; and

  5. any other related matter.

  6. That standing order 389 be so far suspended as to enable the chairperson of the committee to have a deliberative vote only.

  7. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

  8. That standing order 396 be suspended to enable strangers to be admitted when the select committee is examining witnesses unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.

I rise to speak on this motion. In the middle of last year, a chemotherapy dosing error was reported to have occurred at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Flinders Medical Centre. It is said to have affected 10 individuals, of whom two have died, and the remaining eight to this day do not know what effect this error will have on them and their health.

I was very interested to read in today's Advertiser the Minister for Health's comments in relation to clinicians who had accessed the medical records of Cy Walsh without authorisation. The minister said staff involved would face serious consequences, and both he and SA Health Chief Executive, David Swan, have condemned the spying.

In comparison, the minister has made no such similar statement that I am aware of in relation to those who are responsible for this dosage error. He has expressed that it is regrettable and that he shares the anger of Mr Andrew Knox, one of the patients who was administered dosages incorrectly. However, it seems that the minister feels more strongly about the medical records of an individual rather than the potential lives of 10 who were exposed to this problem.

I want to put on the record the hard work of the Hon. Stephen Wade, who has worked with me on this matter. I thank him and the Liberal Party for their support. Both the Hon. Stephen Wade and I met Mr Andrew Knox and Mr Mike McRae, the brother of Chris McRae, who sadly passed away after receiving incorrect dosages. Mr Knox thoroughly went through his circumstances, and his account, as well as what he has since learnt, is unbelievable.

Mr Knox has put on the public record his belief that staff at the Royal Adelaide Hospital covered up their error, which resulted in the same error occurring at the Flinders Medical Centre. Whilst the minister has advised that SA Health is conducting an internal review, there is scepticism that the truth will be uncovered if Mr Knox's assertions of a culture of cover up at SA Health are correct. The information uncovered by the inquiry led by Professor Marshall was a good starting point; however, the terms of reference were too narrow. That is why it is important now to have a select committee inquire into the matter with broader terms of reference.

Whilst all of the above is alarming enough, it has been reported that affected patients and their families were gagged by the Department for Health from speaking about this issue. This is an issue of enormous public interest, and actions like these are often perceived as trying to sweep it under the carpet.

Minister Snelling has said that he supports a parliamentary committee to inquire into this matter. However, his preference is for it to wait until such time that the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has concluded its investigations into the clinicians involved in the matter. I see no need to wait and do not understand why these inquiries cannot occur concurrently. It is important for the people of South Australia to know the truth of what happened, and it is even more important for those who were affected to get answers as to how it happened. I commend the motion to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins .