Repatriation General Hospital

In Parliament - Thursday, 19 March 2015

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (15:32:19): 'The Repat Hospital is here to stay; the Repat Hospital will never ever be closed by a Labor Government.' These are the words that former premier Rann uttered in September 2010. How hollow these words are today as we digest the closure of the Repatriation General Hospital under this Labor government's Transforming Health proposal.

My office, over the last several weeks, has been inundated with messages of concern regarding the closure of the Repat, especially from veterans and families of veterans in my electorate of Davenport. In addition to the thousands of online signatures received against the closure of the Repat, my office has received hundreds of signatures as of 5pm last night. The residents of Davenport are rightly concerned that the proposed closure of the Repat will see a reduction in health services for the residents of Davenport and the Mitcham Hills. I share their concerns.The Repat lies just on the boundary of the electorate of Davenport and is used by many of my residents on a daily basis. The Repat currently provides 45 hospital services and 51 outpatient services, such as the hydro pool and community gym, the ViTA facility for rehabilitation of older South Australians and general rehabilitation, and these services are used regularly. Other services performed at the Repat, such as mental health inpatient services (more commonly known as Ward 17), which cares for our veterans who are experiencing mental health issues, all of these services play a vital role in our community.

The neurology clinic at the Repat is a facility with a fine national reputation. The Repat, under the umbrella of its neurology facility, provides neurology services, the swallowing clinic, the PEG clinic, breathing clinic and speech clinic all under one roof. I share the concerns of one of my constituents whose wife suffers from the debilitating motor neuron disease. His concerns have not been relieved by the minister that, when the Repat closes, there is no guarantee that the continuance of these important neurological services will be provided in as an efficient and convenient manner going forward as they currently are.

I have a deep concern that the proposed closure of the Repat will put additional pressure on the services performed by the already stretched Flinders Medical Centre. The Repat has roughly 250 beds. These beds will be lost under the Transforming Health proposal and replaced with 55 beds at the wonderful, but stretched, Flinders Medical Centre. How can a decision to remove 195 beds from our community lead to better health care for the people of Davenport and indeed the whole state?

In my maiden speech to the house, I spoke of the importance of palliative care services in South Australia. The closure of the Repat will see the relocation of the Daw Park Hospice to a site yet unknown. Since 1988, the Daw Park Hospice has comforted and provided enhanced end-of-life care for thousands of South Australians. A relocation of the hospice from its relatively central location would be a poor public policy position to be taken by this government.

Professor Ian Maddock, Senior South Australian of the Year in 2013 and the first chair of palliative care at Flinders University, said of the Daw Park Hospice on ABC radio recently:

Daw House is an icon in terms of palliative care, it's been a centre of excellence, it's been a centre for international training , it's put through thousands of postgraduate students…because it's a complex, it's not just a set of hospice beds, it's a complex of both research and education as well as care.

As I have already stated, many veterans from the Davenport community have contacted me in regard to the closure of the Repat. The Repat over many years has not just healed many of the physical scars of our veterans, but many of the emotional scars as well. Years ago, on 10 March 1995, ministers both Liberal and Labor, both federal and state, signed on behalf of government what in essence was a pledge to preserve the Repat. This commitment has now been broken by the government opposite.

The closure of the Repat is nothing more than a land grab by this debt-ridden government. Dr Patricia Montanaro, state president of the AMA, on Radio FIVEaa said yesterday, in regard to Transforming Health and the closure of the Repat:

…because this plan has no detail it's still bad…we are getting some of the statistics out but not any of the business case, so this is a real estate deal around closing off the Repat and closing off Hampstead Hospital and we have no assurance that the services—because the services are not just the service, they're the sum of the service; they are the training.

This government should be listening to our community, our veterans, the AMA, our clinicians, the thousands of South Australians who have pledged their support to the Repat. This Labor government should be condemned for its decision to close our iconic community hospital.