Transforming health

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (12:10): I also rise to speak in support of the member for Bragg's motion:

That this house expresses its concern at the systematic reduction in acute health services for the people of the western suburbs through the government's Transforming Health Program...

The member for Bragg is 100 per cent correct. For all members on this side of the house who support this motion, we know what this government is doing to health services across the board, from The QEH to the Repat and its closure, down to Noarlunga and, of course, all the way through Country Health as well.

In his contribution, the member for Finniss remarked on some of the words of the federal member for Port Adelaide, Mr Mark Butler, and his concerns with Transforming Health and the closure of The QEH. I am really glad there is someone in the Labor Party who also thinks that Transforming Health is a bad thing. In Mr Butler's letter to the health minister back in April of last year the federal member for Port Adelaide—and of course The QEH is within his constituency—says, and I quote:

I am concerned that the proposals relating to The QEH are undermining the Western suburbs community's confidence in the Hospital's services. The withdrawal of some acute services (especially cardiology) from The QEH before the new Royal Adelaide Hospital has commenced operations and demonstrated its ability to provide high quality acute and emergency care to our community is causing a high degree of unease.

He goes on to say:

As a former Commonwealth Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, I am especially familiar with a number of services that will also be heavily impacted by the proposed shift of rehabilitation services from Hampstead to The QEH. As Chair of the Advisory Council to the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence on Frailty, which is based at The QEH, I am particularly concerned about the negative impact the proposed shift will have on the first-class geriatric unit at the Hospital; but also on palliative care and respiratory services.

Those are not my words condemning the proposed removal of facilities at The QEH; they are not the words of anyone else on this side; they are the words of the federal member for Port Adelaide, and that really should say it all about what is really happening at The QEH and what the Labor Party is doing.

In recent weeks, we have seen highlighted, both in the house and out in the public domain, this government's failure in health care, this government's absolute failure to deal with the care of— particularly at the moment—older persons in state care. Of course, we are talking about the fiasco that is at Oakden and the disgraceful handling by the government and the bureaucracy of the care for our most vulnerable. One of the constant defences that this government, and particularly the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, uses for not providing an adequate response to questions from this side of the house is, 'I am not a clinician; so therefore I cannot come to the house and provide proper answers in relation to services and treatment of patients.'

I actually agree with the minister on this one: she is not a clinician. I am not a clinician, the member for Colton is certainly not a clinician and neither is the member for Kaurna. But I would like to talk a bit about some clinicians who do have a lot of experience in the health system, which is very important. Professor Warren Jones, the retired professor of gynaecology at Flinders hospital and a very well-respected man within his profession, has been a key critic of Transforming Health, because he knows what Transforming Health is doing right now to our hospital system, and he knows the impact it will have in the long term on patient care in South Australia. Warren Jones, going back to February 2016, said:

Under Transforming Health The QEH emergency department will be progressively downgraded to a drop-in centre able to deal only with minor emergencies and chronic problems. The intensive care unit will also be downgraded so that patients requiring life support or complex monitoring will be transferred into the city. Indeed, severely ill people including those with heart attacks and strokes, will not treated at The QEH, they will be transferred or taken direct to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Specialist training positions will be lost, and senior specialists will progressively leave the hospital making some services unsustainable and unsafe. The stress and inconvenience for western suburbs residents, many of them elderly, of travelling to the city centre for treatment or to visit relatives is unacceptable and cruel.

Again, they are not my words but the words of Professor Warren Jones, a clinician with years of experience who knows the health system in South Australia. They are his words and they are his concerns in regard to what the government is proposing at The QEH. Believe it or not, his words ring true as to what is happening in your electorate, Deputy Speaker, at Modbury Hospital and, of course, at Noarlunga Hospital as well. We are also seeing that in my own community with the closure of the Repat.

I go on and bring to the attention of the house the words of Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars from the Nursing and Midwifery Federation in regard to what is going on with Transforming Health and The QEH. Back on 18 January 2017, she said on FIVEaa:

…what's going to be discussed is the appalling closures that are both being undertaken and proposed at both the Royal Adelaide Hospital and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital and as recently as late yesterday we understand that there's also some possible closures being proposed at the Flinders Medical Centre…this may well extend and expand over there as well. However at this stage the meetings are planned at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital and what we're going to be saying to the nursing staff which has been reflected in our conversations to date…Transforming Health…[we have an] issue [with] the execution, [we think the execution] is appalling; we think that the issue has become one of cost cutting.

It appears to us that Treasury has just come in and said, Look, you've gotta make the savings that you promised', but the problem is that they haven't actually achieved the efficiencies that they were saying that they would be able to achieve under Transforming Health…the bottom line is that those closures are just fundamentally unsafe for patient care…we're very concerned about the safety issues for patients, we believe that their actions will compromise patient care, we believe that the fact that they have stopped by their actions there will be people no longer cohorted or grouped in appropriate areas—will mean that there would be more deaths amongst the patients…what we're going to be saying to our nurses…[is that we have] professional obligations…

She goes on to criticise Transforming Health.

These are senior clinicians, senior representatives of people who work in our health system, who are concerned with these proposed changes. So, when the member for Colton and the member for Kaurna and the member for Newland stand up in the house today in this debate, which they have, and say that the Labor Party is out there fighting for their constituents, that is absolute rubbish. It is absolute rubbish that that is occurring.

Where is the member for Elder, fighting for her constituents with the closure of the Repat, saying she will never, ever close the Repat? Every member on the Labor side of the house, they have not stood up for their constituency. Where is the member for Fisher and the member for Reynell fighting to save Noarlunga Hospital?

Where is the member for Fisher, fighting for her community? The reality is they are not. The sad part is that in their heart of hearts all those members know that this government is doing the wrong thing. That is the sad part about it. As you know, Deputy Speaker, what the government is doing to your community is the wrong thing. Deep down I know that the member for Elder knows that the closure of the Repat is a bad thing. My community definitely knows it is a very, very bad thing.

We all know that in recent weeks the Minister for Mental Health has been hiding behind the fact that she is not a clinician for her reason not to act in certain ways regarding the treatment of older persons at Oakden. I put on the record today the senior clinicians in this state who do not support Transforming Health, who do not support the downgrading of The QEH, who do not support the removal of the wonderful cardiology unit at The QEH.

We on this side of the house understand that the western suburbs are one of the oldest communities not only in South Australia but in the entire nation, and we understand that those people who live in the western suburbs need access to health care in their community. What is happening at The QEH is unacceptable, what is happening across the board is unacceptable and the Labor members of this parliament should hang their heads in shame at supporting the closure of the hospitals in their communities.