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New RAH opening date finally revealed

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The State Government has announced the new Royal Adelaide Hospital will open on September 5, avoiding the expected peak of the flu season but bringing it within months of the next state election campaign.

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Health Minister Jack Snelling told reporters this morning the opening was the most significant event in the history of healthcare in South Australia.

Ten years ago when the Rann Government announced a new hospital for the city, the opening date was predicted to be 2016.

Today, Premier Jay Weatherill and Snelling said in-patients would be moved from the current RAH to the new hospital over a three-day operation from 4-6 September 2017.

“This is the biggest thing to happen in healthcare in South Australia in our entire history – and one of the biggest things to happen in healthcare in Australia’s history,” Snelling said.

“It’s the most advanced hospital in the world.”

The opening date falls between what SA Health expects will be peaks in patient admissions in July/August and October/November.

But the Opposition says the September opening date would still be within the flu season and that the Government was putting politics before patient safety.

Opposition Health spokesperson Stephen Wade pointed out that the SA Health website describes the flu season as being “of varying severity occurs every year, usually between May and September”.

Wade said the plan was not feasible and “this date will be moved”.

“The Weatherill Government is demonstrating yet again that it puts politics before patient safety.”

Snelling said that the Government was “very, very confident” there would be no further delays, however there remained “an opportunity over the next 12 weeks” to push the opening date back if senior health professionals advise it won’t be safe to transfer patients by then.

About 100 patients each day will be transferred from the old Royal Adelaide Hospital along North Terrace in ambulances over three days starting on September 4.

The new hospital’s emergency department is due to open at 7am on September 5.

Anyone looking to admit themselves or a loved one to hospital in the city are advised to present to the old Royal Adelaide Hospital on the east end of North Terrace before then.

Some staff will be rostered on at the new hospital, at the west end, in case anyone presents there earlier by mistake.

Snelling said additional ambulance crews will be available to ensure that enough ambulances are available during the transfer of patients, and that the Government did not expect to have to close North Terrance during the period.

The movement of computers, equipment and furniture into the new hospital will begin about four weeks before the patient transfers.

He said the opening of the $2.3 billion hospital was “the most momentous thing I’ll be involved in in my political career”.

He said he was not disappointed that any teething problems with the new hospital after opening may coincide with the next state election in March 2018.

Some patients, including those requiring extended stays in hospital, will be transferred to other hospitals when the old RAH “ramps down”, and some non-urgent elective surgery will be delayed.

Some outpatient and oncology services will be delivered at the new hospital from August.

Snelling added that the taxpayer was “well and truly ahead” financially because of delays to financial acceptance of the hospital, which is now expected to occur by the middle of next month.

“We’ve been saving a million dollars a day and we will have saved roughly $400 million [by September …] because we have not paid any of our service fees [amd will not begin to do so] until commercial acceptance,” he said.

“Commercial acceptance is still on track to be the middle of June.”

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation SA Branch CEO Elizabeth Dabars welcomed the announcement of the September open date, and “the Government’s acceptance that this move-in date remains contingent upon activity levels being low enough to ensure patient and staff safety”.

“Ensuring appropriate care for patients and safe working conditions for members remains at the forefront of our role – and it is what we will continue to do up to and beyond September,” she said in a statement this morning.

more to come

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