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"No need" for independent inquiry into SA Health: Marshall


Premier Steven Marshall has declared there is no need for an independent probe into SA Health, while defending his Government’s handling of a scathing report into suspected corruption within the department.

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Marshall told reporters this morning that he was happy with the decision to appoint a cross-agency taskforce to address serious problems with the functioning of SA Health – a decision announced before the Premier and Health Minister Stephen Wade had fully read the ICAC report.

“I don’t think that we need it… I just genuinely don’t think that we need an independent inquiry,” he said.

Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander described the state’s biggest department as “ripe for exploitation by corrupt employees” in a report tabled in parliament on Tuesday.

Lander’s report said misconduct was “common and accepted” within the department, conflicts of interest were often left undeclared and unmitigated, and poor record keeping had undermined his own investigations into alleged cases of corruption, which had to be abandoned as there was little chance of successful prosecution.

Marshall defended his government’s response to the report while announcing an $86 million expansion of the Flinders Medical Centre emergency department, and insisted was not timed to suit his political convenience.

The State Government has refused to provide Lander’s office with the $2 million the Commissioner says he needed to undertake a full evaluation of SA Health, and dismissed calls for a Royal Commission into the department.

Instead, the Government earlier this week announced a cross-agency taskforce to deal with the crisis, to be led by the CEO of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Yesterday, Health Minister Stephen Wade told FIVEaa that Cabinet signed off on the taskforce plan before he had fully read the ICAC’s report, which was delivered to the Government last Friday.

But Marshall said this morning that Cabinet had discussed “only the fact that it (the report) had been received and that it would be tabled”.

“It wasn’t that we went through the actual report,” he told reporters today.

“We don’t discuss what we discuss in Cabinet with the general media but I’m very happy with the decision we’ve made.”

Marshall insisted that the cross-agency taskforce, announced by Wade less than an hour after the ICAC report was tabled in parliament, was not a response to the report, but rather a policy to deal with problems that had been obvious since the Liberal Party came to Government early last year.

“There wasn’t anything new that came up in the report – these were issues that had been raised repeatedly and they go back to 2013,” said Marshall.

“That (the taskforce) is not the Government’s response to the report, that’s the mechanism we’re going to receive input from the senior management council.

“That’s what we’ve been working on, not since Tuesday this week but since we came to government.”

During his radio interview yesterday morning, Wade had also insisted there was “nothing new” in the ICAC’s report, but later in the same interview, said: “It’s a detailed report – it gave us a lot more information.”

This morning Marshall said his Government would double the capacity of the FMC emergency department and add 45 employees.

“The people of South Australia want to make sure that when they turn up at an ED that there’s going to be available capacity for them,” said Marshall

“The previous government didn’t build the capacity … that was required here.”

He said the investment would have a flow-on benefit for the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Lyell McEwin Hospital emergency departments.

Each of the state’s major hospitals have been struggling with unprecedented and increasing levels of ambulance ramping this year.

Wade said the upgrades would go some way towards undoing what he described as the damage of the former Labor Government’s Transforming Health hospitals consolidation program.

Responding to a suggestion from a reporter that the timing of the announcement was politically convenient for the Government, Marshall said: “not at all.”

“It was a matter that went through the normal processes,” said Marshall.

“When they’ve gone through Cabinet they can be announced.

“It’s only just gone through Cabinet.”

Opposition Health spokesperson Chris Picton told InDaily the taskforce would not solve the problems outlined in the ICAC report, and that the Government should fund the Commissioner’s proposed evaluation.

“I don’t think that anybody in South Australia … would think that a bureaucratic committee is going to get to the bottom of these issues more than the ICAC would,” said Picton.

“The ICAC has the powers of a Royal Commission to investigate this matter.

“It’s completely weak and pathetic that the Government has denied his request.”

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