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Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Health. Can the minister advise whether the new Liberal government has any plans to restore health services at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:51): I thank the honourable member for his question. This is another example of Labor forgetting its base. We had a Labor government at the last election that went into the 2014 election promising the stage 3 redevelopment at The QEH. I think it was the second time they had promised it, and soon after the 2014 election they came in and cancelled that project.

Under Transforming Health, for two years they tried to tell the people of the north-west, particularly people around The QEH, that it was good for them that they were downgrading their emergency department, particularly diverting cardiac emergency cases and transferring a whole range of services to the RAH. In June last year, with, I think, minister Mullighan, minister Snelling and then premier Jay Weatherill—all scared for their seats—they went to The QEH and started the process of the smoke and mirrors of the Transforming Health backdown.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: On a point of order: Mr President, in line with your directions and guidance at the beginning of this session, I think you made it very clear that you will not be allowing members to engage in debate or opinions. The minister on his feet has been talking about smoke and mirrors and other aspects, which are clearly opinion and debate, and I ask that you rule and remind him of that.

The PRESIDENT: I am happy to remind the minister of my direction, but the minister is getting some latitude.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Thank you, Mr President. I remind the honourable member that that was the political context that this government has inherited.

The fact of the matter is that the Marshall Liberal government comes to this parliament, having received the endorsement of the people of South Australia, to wind back the damage done by Transforming Health, and The QEH is a key facility in that regard. This government will proceed with the redevelopment, so often cancelled by the former government, but it will be a substantial redevelopment. I have already been to The QEH and been briefed by Jenny Richter, the CEO of the hospital, by Guy Maddern, the Director of Surgery, and by members of the critical care team, and have inspected some appalling facilities.

To be frank, The QEH emergency department that I witnessed on that occasion was the worst emergency department that I have seen in the state anywhere, yet this is what happens in a Labor district after 16 years of Labor.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Point of order, Mr President. Despite your ruling and your degree of latitude, the honourable member is clearly engaging in debate again, giving his opinion, not answering the question that was asked of him.

The PRESIDENT: I ask the minister—

Members interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I ask the minister to have regard to the point of order, but he is stating the facts as he sees them as I understand at the moment.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: With all due respect to the honourable member, I don't think the state of The QEH emergency department is a matter of opinion: it's a matter of fact. It's appalling. What clinicians told me was that there was actually—in fact, let me illustrate—

The Hon. K.J. Maher: You are listening to clinicians now, are you?


The Hon. K.J. Maher: He couldn't name any before.


Members interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Let the minister answer his question.

Members interjecting


The Hon. S.G. WADE: There is a part of this emergency department which is going to be closed down by health accreditors because it expects people to operate without solid walls. So, you expect people in an emergency department context to be under intense pain and intense distress; that's why they turn up in the emergency department. But there were six cubicles there. I think it was six.

I could be wrong on the number, but certainly we were being told that that part of the emergency department would not be able to continue to operate because a former Labor government, after 16 years, after cancelling time after time commitments to upgrade that emergency department, had still not done it. So, that emergency department, which is already significantly under stress from time to time, may well face being under more stress because of a failure of the former government to deliver on its promises.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Point of order, Mr President.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: But I assure you that this Marshall Liberal government—

The PRESIDENT: Minister, please be seated. There is a point of order.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The question is about irrelevance, Mr President. The honourable minister was asked what are his plans. He has spent the last 15 minutes talking about the previous government's.

The PRESIDENT: I appreciate your point of order—

The Hon. S.G. WADE: I assure the council that this government will deliver on a new emergency department at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Point of order, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Yes, the Hon. Mr Hunter?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Mr President, you were about to rule on your point of order and the honourable minister jumped to his feet.

The PRESIDENT: Please be seated, minister. I am giving the minister some latitude on an important question. Minister.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: The redevelopment of the emergency department at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is going to be a fundamental component of the Marshall Liberal government redevelopment of The QEH site. Other elements will be the operating theatre and the day surgery, a new imaging suite, outpatient clinics and, in particular, the rehabilitation facilities.

I acknowledge the sterling work done by the Hon. John Darley and the Hon. Tammy Franks as part of the Transforming Health select committee, which showed the gross negligence of the former Labor government in their proposal to compress the rehabilitation facilities from the Hampstead hospital into The QEH site without any additional build. In fact, what you were going to do under the former Labor government's proposal was actually lose 23 beds at the same time as we were transferring a whole range of highly specialised rehabilitation services.

Members interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Let the minister answer the question.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: So, with the proposal under Transforming Health, not only have they cancelled—

The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting

The PRESIDENT: The Leader of the Opposition, please be quiet.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Not only had they cancelled the much promised, repeatedly promised redevelopment of The QEH, but then, under the Transforming Health plan, they were going to compress about half the facilities from the Hampstead site into The QEH site. Sorry, I should pause and acknowledge the contribution of the Hon. Tung Ngo on the Transforming Health select committee because he, together with the honourable members I have already mentioned, highlighted the barmy plans that the former health minister in the Weatherill Labor government had. He was going to do all this redevelopment and not provide additional car parks. You had an horrendous situation where people in an acute period of healthcare need—

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Point of order, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Minister, there is a point of order.

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Mr President, I have been listening very closely, looking for an answer to the question that was asked. The minister again is traversing aspects of the past. He is not answering the question as to what are your plans for The Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The PRESIDENT: The minister is entitled to answer the question as he sees fit.

Members interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Let the minister complete his answer.

The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Let the minister complete his answer.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Fair cop, Mr President. The fact of the matter is the reason why we need to build a car park is because the former government didn't. There is a connection here. It's 16 years of Labor neglect that produces the need to do what we are doing. The fact of the matter is that we—

An honourable member interjecting

The Hon. S.G. WADE: He winked at me. The fact of the matter is that this government is being forced, by the neglect of Labor of 16 years of its own heartland, to invest more than $100 million in capital redevelopment there. But I think we can also be proud that we actually have a QEH that can be saved because, if the former Labor government, the Weatherill government, had succeeded in compressing the rehabilitation services from the Hampstead site into The QEH site before we had the opportunity to go back to the people in March 2018, I fear what would have been left to salvage.

The fact of the matter is that they were talking about dislocating palliative care patients from a purpose-built facility and putting rehabilitation patients from Hampstead in a facility that was not purpose built. We actually had the prospect of spinal recovery patients being in corridors where two wheelchairs couldn't pass in the one corridor. This is how poorly planned the whole Transforming Health debacle was.

The PRESIDENT: Minister, are we coming to a conclusion since you have had a reasonable hearing?

The Hon. S.G. WADE: I can assure the honourable member that, as I have outlined in my answer, the government has a whole range of initiatives planned for The QEH, but I am doubly proud of the fact that, together with yourself and other members of this council, we protected The QEH so that we can make the best possible health services for the people of the north-west in the years ahead.