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Cloud over possible move for women's health services

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Confusion surrounds the future of gynaecological care for women in Adelaide’s west, with specialists “kept in the dark” about whether services will be moved from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, a parliamentary committee has been told.

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SA Health chief executive Dr Chris McGowan has written to the doctors’ union insisting no decision has been made despite an “infrastructure allowance” in plans for the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

SA Salaried Medical Officers Association chief industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland this morning told the health services select committee there was “a great deal of confusion and now a great deal of anger” from doctors over the issue.

As part of her evidence, she read an email she had recently received from McGowan after raising concerns with him.

“It appears that something may have got lost in the messaging around this,” McGowan wrote to Mulholland.

“While we have made an infrastructure allowance to enable the consolidation of gynaecology services from CALHN (Central Adelaide Local Health Network) to WCHN (Women’s and Children’s Health Network) should such a decision be made… that decision has not yet been made and the proposal will be subject to the usual consultation processes.

“I expect that both CALHN and WCHN will engage with you further on this matter.”

Mulholland told the committee gynaecologists at the QEH were “none the wiser” about what was happening.

Committee chair SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros asked her if it was fair to say that the specialists at the QEH had been “kept completely in the dark” over the issue and that “the discussions are taking part around them, not with them”.

Mulholland replied “yes, that’s correct”.

“There’s people’s livelihoods on this,” she said.

“There’s people who preside over at the QEH who may need to move elsewhere.”

Retired obstetrician and gynaecologist Professor Warren Jones, who is convenor of the WCH Alliance, also gave evidence at the committee and said he had spoken with the head of gynaecology at the QEH who “didn’t know what was going on”.

Health Minister Stephen Wade was asked in parliament last week about the future of gynaecology services and said consultation had been occurring.

Bonaros asked him if he could confirm the decision to close gynaecology services at the QEH, what grounds that decision had been made, when would the services end, if he was confident the new WCH would have the capacity to deal with increase in demand and if there were broader plans to centralise obstetrics throughout metropolitan Adelaide.

“In terms of the services the honourable member refers to, it was the subject of consultation in the preparation of the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital business case,” he said.

“There will be further consultation with stakeholders and time frames will be notified at the appropriate time.”

Wade said the government was “committed to a statewide service, both statewide in the sense that the Women’s and Children’s Hospital is a statewide service and also from the fact that local health networks provide a range of women’s services”.

“The government is working on a statewide women’s and children’s strategic plan, clinical services plan, or words to that effect,” he said.

“That is the document that will address the broader provision of these services.”

A State Government spokesperson said “planning is underway for the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) to include infrastructure for a gynaecology service”.

“No decision has been made about the provision of the service,” the spokesperson said.

“As part of our ongoing consultation for the new hospital, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Network (WCHN) and Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CAHLN) will consult with staff about how the service could be provided in the future.”

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