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Cardiologist accuses SA Health of derailing research, planning cuts for QEH

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Outspoken former Queen Elizabeth Hospital cardiology chief John Horowitz has accusing SA Health of preventing him and colleagues from undertaking research at the hospital and claims it has plans to downgrade services there.

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Horowitz, who was Director of Cardiology at the QEH for 30 years, says that after being dumped from the position in 2018, he was offered a 12-month Emeritus position by SA Health’s Central Adelaide Local Health Network but on the basis that he couldn’t apply for new research grants.

“I refused this offer, and have been prevented from conducting research at TQEH since then, undertaking my work from the Basil Hetzel Institute instead,” he said in an open letter to Premier Steven Marshall.

“Furthermore, internal funding, which covered the salaries of four of my colleagues, was withdrawn, resulting in an irresponsible ‘brain drain’.’

“Four of my younger colleagues, all very promising, took up senior appointments interstate.  When, in 2020, I was named a Senior Investigator on two Heart Foundation research grants, CALHN/TQEH bureaucracy took more than six months to consider my application for hospital access to run the projects, and then refused.

“Very recently, they also refused to grant Ethics approval for a research project for one of my postgraduate students to be run outside TQEH (where I could supervise it) but were happy for it to proceed inside TQEH (where in practice it would be unsupervised!).”

Horowitz has been a thorn in the side of successive governments. He was a trenchant critic of the previous Labor Government’s “Transforming Health” agenda, and fought a plan to centralising some cardiac services at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Also in the last term of the Labor Government, he was suspended from duty for seven months after being accused of alleged bullying, but says that accusation was later downgraded.

He said in his open letter that elements of Transforming Health remain in place and accuses the Marshall Government of planning to close other services at TQEH – a claim not ruled out by SA Health.

“You have not advertised this, but it is planned that Gynaecology services at TQEH will close. As for Cardiology, our staffing numbers have been seriously cut, and we will only have one cath lab in the new building, seriously limiting our range of on-site treatment. Does the public know about this planned further erosion of health services in the Western suburbs?”

Horowitz also slammed the health bureaucracy, saying it was dysfunctional, had a “cult of personal abuse and bullying”, with poor decision-making coupled with “displays of viciousness” towards anyone opposing its recommendations.

In response, CALHN said it took bullying very seriously and investigated all such complaints.

It confirmed some of Horowitz’s claims about services, saying its planning had found that one cardiac catheter lab and one procedure room at TQEH was sufficient for clinical needs.

In a written statement, the health network did not address Horowitz’s claims about the treatment of his research aspirations or his colleagues, however it indicated it was attempting to improve arrangements for researchers.

“We are currently completing an internal review of research governance arrangements and will work to provide greater opportunity for career progression and job security in clinical research. This is in collaboration with our partner organisations in the health precinct, SAHMRI and University of Adelaide. Grants funding for clinical research operates on an annual cycle which impacts on the contract arrangements of clinical research staff and we anticipate this will be improved by the current review process.”

SA Health said no decision have been made about the future of gynaecology services at TQEH.

“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.

“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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