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Training and research a casualty of Repat closure

Opinion

The Government’s Transforming Health process has ignored the teaching, training and research which will be disrupted, eroded or lost when the Repat closes, writes Professor Warren Jones.

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Currently, there are 16 Flinders University courses conducted at the Repatriation General Hospital (RGH). A total of 129 full-time students are enrolled this year and a further 220 benefit from online courses managed from the hospital.

About 800 medical, nursing and allied health students will complete clinical placements at the RGH in 2015. These placements will have to be accommodated in other, already crowded, public hospitals in Adelaide.

A projected 170 full-time Masters students in Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy are planned to be in place at the Repat by 2017.

The RGH also accommodates specialist trainees in surgery, internal medicine and organ imaging. Training facilities in these areas are already overstretched at our public hospitals.

The Repat is also an important training hospital for nursing and pharmacy students from the University of South Australia.

There has been a considerable investment in Flinders University staff at the RGH. There are 88 salaried employees, and 91 Repat staff with academic status. These teachers have important education and training roles across a wide range of clinical areas.

The Repat has made significant contributions to medical research, particularly in the areas of palliative care, sleep medicine, orthopaedics, rheumatology and aged care.

In the past 10 years, $75 million has been invested in Flinders University researchers based at the RGH, and in the facilities they work in.

These facilities will be wasted, and the research income lost to SA, once the associated clinical services are closed.

There has been considerable investment in infrastructure for teaching and research at the RGH by Flinders University and the Commonwealth Government.

University infrastructure at the Repat, and the adjacent Pasadena High School, has been expanded since 2010, at an investment of more than $10 million. Currently, teaching facilities for 80 allied health students are located at the High School and these are set to expand further.

Administrative accommodation for the Flinders University School of Medicine was built at the RGH in 2009, and subsequently a two-storey Health Sciences Building was added.

The arrangement with the Commonwealth, which funded this infrastructure, was that, if it was vacated within 20 years, the university would be required to pay back the proportion of funds provided, equivalent to the under-used time.

It is unclear at present whether the State Government will reimburse Flinders University and the Commonwealth for their equity in the considerable assets they have funded on the Repat site.

More importantly, we have no idea how and where the Repat teaching and training facilities will be replaced or relocated.

Warren Jones AO is an Emeritus Professor at Flinders University and a former head of obstetrics at the Flinders Medical Centre.

 

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