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Noarlunga Hospital Motion

Mr WINGARD (Mitchell) (10:51): I move:

That this house—

(a) acknowledges the critical role that Noarlunga Hospital plays in the delivery of health services to the people of Adelaide's southern suburbs;

(b) notes that, prior to the 2014 state election, the Labor Party promised to invest $31 million in upgrading Noarlunga Hospital but subsequently reduced this funding allocation by more than half; and

(c) recognises the quality and commitment of the front-line staff who work at Noarlunga Hospital and their concern that the government's Transforming Health program is undermining the hospital's long-term future as a general community hospital. 

This is another great example of a big promise from the state Labor government and a failure to deliver. We know the failure of Transforming Health, and we know that the government does not like to talk about Transforming Health because South Australians are absolutely sick to the eyeballs of it.

This is a very classic example. We know just recently that two ministers have gone in the wake of this Transforming Health fiasco, and I again stress the point that South Australians are absolutely fed up with what is happening.

I have been speaking to my local community about this issue for a long time now and working in conjunction with the Liberal candidate for Hurtle Vale, Aaron Duff. I know that he is also very fed up with the feedback he is getting from people in the southern suburbs about the way Noarlunga Hospital has been treated, the promise that was made and the failure of this government to deliver.

By way of background, Noarlunga Hospital is one of three public hospitals located in SA Health's Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN). Flinders Medical Centre and the Repatriation General Hospital are the other two. The SALHN delivers public hospital services for more than 350,000 people living in the southern metropolitan area of Adelaide, which is one of the four fastest growing regions in our state, so it really is an important part of South Australia.

Let's have a look at the broken promises from the 2014 state election. Before the 2014 election, Labor promised to spend $31 million on Noarlunga Hospital. That has been cut by more than 60 per cent. I stress the point—massive promise, massive failure to deliver. Labor is now spending just $12 million. They promised $31 million: they are spending just $12 million, mainly to enable Noarlunga Hospital to accept cases from the Repat when it closes. That is why the money has been spent. Money has been spent on Noarlunga Hospital so that it can accept patients when the Repat closes.

The other issue that is also circling there that I want to bring to the house's attention is white ants. It has been reported that white ants were discovered in the roof of the outpatient department of Noarlunga Hospital last year, which will take two to four weeks to fix. They say that there is no significant delay in moving outpatient services from the Repat, but with white ants, who knows? We will keep a close eye on that as well.

I would like to talk about the emergency department. In 2016, the Weatherill government closed 20 per cent of Noarlunga's emergency department treatment bays. They were reduced from 31 to 24. It now has the lowest capacity of any ED in metropolitan Adelaide. Emergency waiting times at Noarlunga Hospital were already below comparative performances with its national peer group. In 2015-16, only 61 per cent of emergency patients were treated within 10 minutes of arrival at the ED of this hospital, compared with the national peer group performance of 77 per cent.

What is happening at Noarlunga is 61 per cent, and on the national scale 77 per cent is the comparison average. Thirty-two per cent of urgent patients were treated within 30 minutes on arrival at the emergency department of this hospital, compared with the national peer group performance of 65 per cent. Again, as South Australia stacks up and as this hospital stacks up, they are way below the national peer group performance.

Ambulances no longer take people to Noarlunga Hospital if their condition is life threatening or they could require a hospital administration. They will go straight past and head to Flinders. The government's own estimate suggests that the average total travel time for Noarlunga patients would more than double, from 11 minutes to 24 minutes, as a result of Transforming Health. In an emergency, those 13 minutes could be the difference between life and death.

No additional emergency bays were opened at Flinders to allow for the increased level of transfers. Only now is the government planning to increase that capacity. The plan was never put in place. They were closing down these emergency beds at Noarlunga and they were not increasing the capacity at Flinders. It has taken a lot of noise to get the government looking at this and moving in that direction.

Transforming Health is hitting the Flinders Medical Centre hard as well; we know that. There has been a dramatic 4.5 per cent decline in patients seen within four hours. But emergency department capability is not enough. The most important thing is patient flow, especially discharging people when they no longer need acute care. In relation to children's emergencies, while the children's area in Noarlunga Hospital's emergency department has been made more child friendly, any child needing emergency or major surgery has to be transferred to Flinders.

Let's also look at hospital services. Under Transforming Health Noarlunga Hospital will no longer be a general community hospital. It will be a regional day surgery centre with a focus on geriatric services. Around half the beds at Noarlunga Hospital will be for geriatric services. No acute or major surgery will be performed at the hospital, and the acute medical ward will be closed. People from the inner southern suburbs will need to travel to Noarlunga for day surgery or for geriatric services. People from the outer southern suburbs will need to travel to Flinders Medical Centre or beyond to get care that requires overnight admission.

In terms of the private hospital closure, under Transforming Health Noarlunga Private Hospital's 26-bed Myles Ward will be closed and its 15 single-bed rooms will be used for elderly patients currently accommodated at the Repat. The closure of the private hospital will disadvantage southern residents who would prefer to stay in a private hospital closer to their home. We can see that the south is really being hit hard. This closure of the private hospital is just to allow the Repat patients to go down there because of the closure of the Repat.

In relation to the southern hospital networks, before the 2014 election Labor also promised that it would never ever close the Repat. Labor now plans to close it by the end of the year. We know the uproar that that has caused. The Repat hospital has handled 87 per cent of the urology elective surgery operations and 62 per cent of the orthopaedic elective surgery operations undertaken in the southern network.

More than two years after the government announced that it would close the Repat, it is still not clear where and how some of its specialty services will be accommodated. It is still not clear where those urology and orthopaedic elective surgeries, which the Repat was doing a very large majority of, will go. We know that people are up in arms about this lack of planning and this lack of foresight from this state Labor government, all under the Transforming Health banner. SA Health is planning to lose 117 inpatient beds and 240 front-line hospital staff positions. That is a major hit to the hospitals in the southern networks.

The recent crisis across our emergency departments is further evidence that Adelaide's hospital network is not ready and will be unable to cope with the closure of the Repat. Disappointingly, on the other side of the chamber I hear nothing from the member for Elder and the member for Fisher, who have stood by as the closure of the Repat has happened. This lack of delivery on a promise on Noarlunga Hospital has been allowed to go through. This state Labor government promises plenty but fails to deliver for the people of South Australia, more specifically in this case the people of the southern suburbs.

The state Liberal team have been very clear on our position on the Repatriation General Hospital and have announced plans to ensure that a genuine health precinct continues to operate on the site of the Repat hospital. We think that is very important. If elected in March 2018, we will issue a ministerial development plan amendment that will zone the site for healthcare services. That is what we want to see if we are elected in March 2018. We will also take further action to maintain the Daw Park site as a genuine health precinct by ensuring that SA Health works with ACH or any future owner of the site to explore best use and best value services in the health precinct, including SA Health public health services.

Our position on Noarlunga Hospital is that the state Liberal team does not support the closure of the Repat or the downgrading of the Noarlunga ED. We believe in a network of fully equipped emergency departments and general community hospitals. As the 2018 general election approaches and it becomes clear what can be salvaged, we will outline our plans for Noarlunga Hospital, but it is clear that now is the time to save Noarlunga Hospital. It is incredibly disappointing that this has been allowed to happen.

As I pointed out from the get-go, before the 2014 state election the bottom line and the big figure number that the Labor government promised to spend on Noarlunga Hospital was $31 million, yet that has been cut, as I said, by more than 60 per cent. Only $12 million is actually being spent on this hospital. That is a great example of how this government operate and what they do and the way they treat, in particular, in this case, the people of the south.

As I mentioned, when I doorknock people say that they have an affinity with Noarlunga Hospital. It is in their local region, but they know that if they go in an ambulance and they have to go to an emergency department and potentially stay overnight in hospital, the ambulance will take them straight past Noarlunga Hospital and take them to Flinders. People of the southern suburbs are left scratching their head about this, and I can understand why.

As I said, working with Aaron Duff and being out in the suburbs and doorknocking and engaging with the community, as I have over a long period of time, I know that people are sick of being treated like fools—being told before the election, 'We will spend $31 million to upgrade Noarlunga Hospital,' and then finding out, in the cool, hard reality of day, that they are only spending $12 million, and that is so they can relocate patients from the Repat hospital, which, before the election, the government had said they would keep open. At no stage before the by-elections did they come out and say that they would close the Repat. In Fisher, as well, the government kept that very secret.

In fact, the other day we heard the Premier saying that the Repat is not closing and that he is just moving services. As I have pointed out here today, where those services are being moved is still very much up in the air. People do not really know. Urology is a key case in point: the Repat does a lot of work with urology patients, and the government cannot tell us where all that work is going to happen. Sadly, this is what South Australians have become accustomed to, with this state Labor government under the current Premier. They promise and they talk up a really big game and then spin their way out of it.

To know that the Repat is closing, yet to have the Premier go on the radio and say, 'No, it's not closing,' is probably as big a spin as I have ever heard. We know that the Treasurer is big on spin at every possible turn when it comes to electricity in South Australia, given the fact that we have the highest priced electricity in the nation under his watch and that they have blown up power stations that are there to supply affordable and reliable electricity to our state, and this, under the ideology of getting wind power and solar power that does not have consistency of supply. We know all that and we hear the Treasurer spin around that, but this one from the Premier, saying that he has not closed the Repat, is just absolutely beyond belief.

I know it has been a hot topic on radio stations right around Adelaide. I really shudder when I hear these sorts of things from the Premier. We know that the Repat is closing. It is going to be closed by the end of the year. That is what this state Labor government wants to do to South Australia. We can see from these numbers how much of an impact that is going to have on the South Australian people, especially, again, the people of the south. These are people who are often overlooked in projects, and I have outlined a number of those in this place on plenty of occasions across the time.

When it comes to health, though, this is something that is vitally important for our region. This so-called promise to upgrade Noarlunga Hospital has not happened. In fact, the $31 million that was promised was actually reduced by 60 per cent and now only $12 million is being spent. Those numbers need to be reiterated, because it is a massive reduction in a commitment made before an election.

It is funny how this state Labor government has a history of doing that. Again, before the Fisher by-election they did not talk about closing the Repat, and then after that election here we are, the Repat is closing and no South Australians knew about it. Not to mention the fact that over time this state Labor government has said, 'We will never ever close the Repat,' a gift from the federal government as well.

That is why our push is to make this a health precinct. We want to do all we can to salvage that. The big fear is that there will be nothing left to salvage post the end of this year as the government moves forward in closing down the Repat and the services that are offered. The questions remain: where will these services go, and how will the people of the south get these services and be looked after in this area?

Urology is one that I talked about. When I doorknock the people all around the southern region, they know that if it is Noarlunga now what is going to happen to Flinders in the future. Why should they go straight past Noarlunga Hospital, the hospital they know, the general community hospital that is there for them and where they have had comfort and known that they will have the services that they need? Now, when it comes to emergency situations, they will be bypassed and they will head to Flinders.

This motion outlines what this government is about and what they do and how. Before an election, they make one promise, but after an election they fail to deliver. They need to be called to account henceforth. I recommend this motion to the house.

Mr WINGARD (Mitchell) (11:36): I rise to close the debate and sum up some of the comments that were made. First, I will look at some of the comments made by the member for Fisher. Let's have a look at what she did say, and I quote, 'Noarlunga Hospital is here to stay.' We remember past quotes from the South Australian Labor government saying that they will never close the Repat hospital. We have quotes saying that Noarlunga Hospital is here to stay and they mirror up with quotes saying that the Repat hospital will never close, and we know that this state Labor government is closing the Repat hospital. It is very interesting that we come out and make these big, bold statements.

She went on to say that Noarlunga Hospital was a surgery hub for day surgery and 23-hour surgery. Heaven forbid if your surgery goes for 24 hours or 25 hours; it is no good for you. It is a 23-hour surgery hospital. There are eight to 12 chairs for elective surgery as well. They were some of the things that she did say, but let's have a look at what the member for Fisher did not say and some of the facts about Transforming Health.

I did notice that she did not mention Transforming Health. She had previously been a champion for Transforming Health, but you will not hear anyone on the other side of this chamber talk about Transforming Health because of its failures and because the people of South Australia know that Transforming Health is a failure and a dog. Noarlunga Hospital is just one case in point, in terms of Transforming Health's failure being exposed.

What the member for Fisher also did not say is that Noarlunga Hospital will no longer be a general community hospital. She talked about the 23-hour surgery and the restrictions there, but she did not say that it will no longer be a general community hospital. It will be a regional day surgery centre with a strong focus on geriatric services. Around half the beds at Noarlunga Hospital will be for geriatric services.

She also did not say that no acute or major surgery will be performed at the hospital. The member for Fisher did not mention that. She did not mention that the acute medical ward will be closed. She also failed to mention that people from the inner southern suburbs who need to travel to Noarlunga for day surgery or geriatric services will be bypassed and sent on to the Flinders Medical Centre if they have a major issue or a major problem. The member for Fisher really did add a lot of spin to what is going on here, much like the Premier does and much like the Premier did the other day when he said that the Repat is not closing. It is disappointing to see what this government does.

Fundamentally, as I mentioned from the outset and as this motion mentions, the government promised to invest $31 million in Noarlunga Hospital and that has now been downgraded to $12 million—a 60 per cent cut in the commitment that this state Labor government made. They will blame everyone else, but I think the South Australian public is sick of the blame game. They are sick of the spin and the rhetoric that comes from this state Labor government.

Another thing that the member for Fisher failed to mention in her speech was the Repat hospital, which fits in this southern network of hospitals—Noarlunga, the Repat and Flinders all working together, servicing 350,000 South Australians in the south. There was not one mention of the Repat closing and not one mention of the services going from that site. The government, those on the other side, the state Labor Party, do not like to talk about Transforming Health or closing the Repat, but they are the facts; that is what is happening.

I would like to commend the member for Davenport for the very good point he made in his speech. He spoke about the big rhetoric from the government on the other side—the big promises and the small outcomes. This is just one example of what they do so often. As the member for Davenport said, 'Don't look at SA Labor's words, look at their actions.' That could not be more true in this case: a $31 million promise has been diluted down to a $12 million outcome—a 60 per cent cut for the people of the south, centred around Noarlunga Hospital.

The member for Hammond spoke about the wonderful work of the people on the front line, which we on this side of the chamber feel strongly about and which is so vitally important in our health service area. This state Labor government wants to cut those front-line numbers and services at Noarlunga Hospital. That is not what we on this side of the house are about, and I commend the member for Hammond for the wonderful points he made.

Modbury Hospital was touched on briefly, and I know that you, Deputy Speaker, are very passionate about this as well. We have seen the backflips that have come about from the pressure we have put on the government. You too, Deputy Speaker, have been involved in putting that pressure on the government and I commend you for it. This government promises one thing but delivers very little when it comes to outcomes. The South Australian public is awake to it and aware of it and I think they have had a gutful. I commend the motion to the house.

The house divided on the motion:

Ayes ................ 16
Noes ................ 20
Majority ............ 4

Motion thus negatived.

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