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19 June 2017

Medical Planning or Election Strategy?

‘The AMA(SA) and senior clinicians were taken by complete surprise by the government’s backflip over the weekend’ says AMA(SA) President, Associate Professor William Tam.

“The $250M upgrade to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, including upgrading the Emergency Department and retaining Cardiac Services is sensible. But where was the communication to the doctors”? asks Associate Professor Tam.

Similarly, the news on Saturday in relation to the Modbury Hospital Emergency Department receiving a $9.2M Extended Care Unit seems to be a sweetener for the electorate but will have no impact on increasing specialty services at the hospital.

“The lack of any prior consultation with the profession or the AMA(SA) prior to last weekend speaks volumes about the government’s target audience, ….the voting public” says Associate Professor Tam.

“Meanwhile, the loss of 196 experienced scientists and technicians from SA Pathology at the end of this month will have a significant impact on the quality of clinical services in South Australia”

The AMA(SA) warns that the savage attack on our state pathology services, based on what the AMA(SA) understands to be flawed data and driven by budget considerations, will lead to a brain drain from vital clinical pathology services.

“The claim that automation will replace experienced scientists and technicians is simply a whitewash” says A/Prof Tam. “For example, 35% of transfusion medicine is automated but 65% is manual, requiring human expertise. Who will do this at 2am in the Lyell McEwin Hospital?”

“Senior clinicians who rely on rapid and expert advice on tissue samples and blood typing are very concerned. Obstetric and infant transfusions have been identified as a major area of risk”. Associate Professor Tam warns.

‘We are being told that the loss of intellectual capital & expertise to this state will place patients’ care at risk’ says AMA(SA) president Tam.

At the same time, the government is moving to outsource outpatient diagnostic imaging at the new RAH because it simply cannot afford to fund the increased radiography staff required to operate all the new equipment.

“This decision, which the AMA(SA) understands to be the direction of the government’s thinking, risks losing 20 young radiology trainees with ramifications across the radiology training program in this state” says A/Prof Tam.

“The AMA(SA) has previously highlighted its concern in relation to the lack of support for clinical research and teaching under Transforming Health and the new RAH build. The potential loss of so many training positions is just more evidence of this approach”.

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Put simply, the recent announcement has only reinforced the medical communities’ view that this government is leading a confused and poorly managed health strategy. Failure to properly engage clinicians, defend poor decisions and then to make major backflips of the nature announced over the weekend is typical of the “announce and defend” approach adopted under the previous Rann leadership.

“Clearly ‘Transforming Health’ has become such a toxic political headline that the government wants to remove it before the next election” says A/Professor Tam.

The AMA(SA) has heard its members repeatedly express their concerns that the government’s focus is on buildings whilst it undermines and depletes clinical services, teaching and clinical research built up over decades by our doctors.

“While it’s great to have surprise announcements about new buildings, health is about people: the people who need the care and the people who provide it. Both deserve clear and considered leadership in the way forward rather than haphazard announcements which appear to be more about an election” says A/Prof Tam.

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