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Your views: on Women's and Children's Hospital, and NDIS care

Reader contributions

Today, readers comment on concerned WCH doctors speaking up about the state of the hospital, and the quality of disability care.

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Commenting on the story: ‘We are really on the edge’: WCH doctors speak out

I love my city, I love my state, but I am ashamed by the social neglect here.

Are we so poor of heart that children’s lives are at risk? What happened to our sense that we can do better? – Kerry Hailstone

This is so terribly upsetting and unsettling at the best of times, let alone when we have a daughter in WCH currently trying to get over an extremely traumatic birth, both physically and mentally, and a grandson currently in SCBU.

A piece of equipment failed at a crucial time and they only had one other one which couldn’t be located in the heat of the moment. Thank goodness this did not affect the baby’s health. – Name supplied

This formalised exposure of the escalating problems at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) and the inadequacies of the planned new hospital is long overdue.

Last year, the WCH Alliance of concerned health professionals encouraged and supported hospital doctors when they raised these same issues in public and in the media.

The resultant reaction from the Health Minister, SA Health, the Women’s and Children’s Local health Network Board and the hospital CEO was unhelpful and unpleasant.

The doctors involved, whose sole concern was the welfare of their patients, were criticised, threatened and sanctioned to the point where their welfare suffered and their careers were potentially jeopardised.

Fortunately, now that hospital medical staff are able speak out under the umbrella of a parliamentary Select Committee, the public will learn the truth about the problems at the WCH, without the distorting influence of bureaucratic spin and misinformation.

There is more of this to come.  Let’s hope the doctors’ message will provoke some meaningful action from the Minister to halt and repair the continuing deterioration of clinical services at the WCH. Professor Warren Jones, Convenor, WCH Alliance

I am certain the general public, particularly the women and children of SA, are full of admiration for the dignified and discerning manner in which Doctors Cooper, Vasilunas, Keeley and Ritchie have once again courageously drawn attention to the crisis at the current WCH and the impending crisis at the new WCH.

Rather than losing confidence in the hospital “brand”, our patients’ concerns rightly centre around the inadequate and tardy response thus far of the Minister of Health, the Chief Executive and the upper echelons of SA Health, the Chairman and the Board of the WCH and the CEO of the hospital and her Executive, to this crisis.

Despite numerous warnings, particularly over the last 18 months, those responsible for presiding over this crisis continue to disingenuously trot out the same $50 million “being spent in upgrading the service” at the current WCH. 

This money has been well and truly spent already with $10 million apportioned to 4 unrelated consultancies initially thus leaving $40 million which has been spent on long overdue cosmetic alterations to the infrastructure of theatres, Emergency Department, the Intensive Care and Special Care Nurseries and the Mental Health ward but without any appreciable change to the major issues of staffing, resourcing and surgical equipment issues which are all vital to service the increasing patient load at the current hospital and the new WCH.

The 100 FTE’s new staff constantly referred to by the Minister are really only the expected annual turnover of junior staff being replaced (often partly so) as they move on to other hospitals as part of their training or even more worryingly moving on to hospitals interstate due to only a handful of senior training positions being made available in SA.

Paradoxically in the face of these staffing issues, Early Retirement Packages continue to be offered to key midwifery and nursing personnel.

The disarray with the Planning User Groups for the new WCH continues to be denied by the CEO and the Executive despite the advice from the above informed and keenly aware medical experts who have clearly explained the serious implications of this disconnect.

The women and children of SA would be reassured if they could see the Premier and the Government respond positively and urgently to the numerous identified problems at the current and new WCH using the same process they have seen in operation with the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic viz listening to the medical advice.

Sadly there are many more concerns re the service to the women and children of SA which are required to be shared shortly.

Meantime the above responsible members of staff, who felt compelled ethically and morally to speak up, will move to protect their vulnerable junior colleagues from the inevitable bullying that has and will occur in an attempt to silence their legitimate concerns for the welfare of their patients. 

It is very clear that our patients expect their doctors to be courageous and speak up honestly on their behalf rather than being patronised by health bureaucrats and their small group of allies. – Professor John Svigos, WCH Alliance

Regarding the quote: “It’s almost unfathomable to us that these sorts of decisions can be made despite the technical experts, the doctors that are advising, the planners and, yes, of course, Treasury, the payers—yet decisions are being made without any clinician input whatsoever.”

To be correct, it is the citizens of South Australia who pay, through their taxes. While downgrading many essential services in our community, including health and education, we are getting another stadium for the city, and a multi-million upgrade of the Hindmarsh stadium.

We, however, elected the government that is making these choices. Perhaps we are getting no more than we wanted. Or than we deserve? – Cathy Chua

Commenting on the story: One year after tragedy, why hasn’t disability care changed?

It is a great tragedy of the NDIS that many new service providers have entered the sector merely because there is a buck to be made via government subsidies.

They employ staff on casual contracts because it is profitable for them to do so. Casual employment means providers can simply send whichever staff is available at the time, without giving too much thought to the actual needs of the client. 

It means clients end up suffering because there is a lack of continuity in the skills required from carers to assist people with individual needs, and rapport and trust is not established. 

Most carers are hard-working, caring people in low paid, undervalued work who are at the mercy of profits before people. – Gina Giorgini

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