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Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Matter of Interest

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 15:42 :02 ): I rise to speak about The Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital or QEH was officially opened in 1958, although it had been in operation since 1954 in response to a post-war demand for maternity services. It is an acute care teaching hospital which has a proud history of providing clinical care, teaching and research.

Under Transforming Health, the government has indicated that some QEH facilities will be downgraded, with a shift for the hospital to focus on rehabilitation, treatment of mental health and elective surgery. The emergency department will remain open, with the exception for those who suffer life-threatening emergencies, who will bypass the hospital and receive treatment at the Royal Adelaide Hospital instead.

Understandably, clinicians and the local community are upset that yet again The QEH's services are being threatened, despite the government spending $324 million in the last 10 years upgrading its facilities. In 1999, the Liberal government had an option paper prepared which suggested that the hospital's services would be downgraded and patients referred to other hospitals. I would say that it is funny that history repeats itself; however, this is no laughing matter.

A select committee was established in 1999 to inquire into the future of The Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The committee heard evidence that the community viewed the department of human service's attempt at consultation as tokenism and that clinicians felt that there was little opportunity for input into future plans. It is a pity that the health department has not learnt anything in 15 years because the same issues are emerging again in relation to Transforming Health. We have clinicians crying out that lives will be put at risk if the proposals under Transforming Health are implemented, and the community is still left in the dark about the future of the hospital.

What is worse is the farce the department passes off as consultation. I understand that rehabilitation practitioners were asked to provide feedback on plans for the rehabilitation unit. This was an opportunity for the government to provide world-class facilities which would incorporate the latest models of best practice. However, when feedback was provided on unworkable elements, the response provided by SA Health was simply that the decisions had already been made and they would simply have to work around the obstacles. I doubt anyone would consider this genuine consultation. The 2001 select committee also said:

The Committee strongly recommends that the Government makes a commitment, at minimum, to maintaining the present role and status of the hospital. The range and nature of the services to be provided by the hospital in the future should reflect the health needs of the community that it serves.

It is a shame that so much has been forgotten in 15 years. Whilst it is important to have a lively, vibrant city that warrants the expenditure of $535 million for a new sporting stadium, it is also equally important that we have a healthcare system that supports us when we are unable to run around said sporting stadium. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, 'A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.'