Don’t leave children behind
OPINION PIECE | A/PROF WILLIAM TAM
Adelaide’s biomedical precinct is getting crowded. The latest addition in the news is Labor’s proposed ‘Health Hub’ – which reads like a bit of a fix-it for some outstanding RAH issues.
The elephant in the room, though, is the question of children. Last election, with much fanfare, Labor promised it would co-locate the Women’s and Children’s Hospital with the new RAH.
Unlike the RAH debate that polarised views the election before, a co-located Women’s and Children’s Hospital was a plan the medical community was wholeheartedly behind.
Now doctors fear we may end up with a substandard, piecemeal approach for these important services, since the government announced two separate hospitals: one for women and babies, and one for children.
But a new Women’s Hospital without the integrated children’s component represents a regressive step back in time 22 years. Times have changed, and we now know more about what is best and safest for mums, babies and children.
The isolation of the women’s health from more advanced adult specialist services has been a weakness with tragic results. So moving it next to the RAH is the right thing to do. But doing so without pairing it with babies’ and children’s services would be exchanging one weakness for another.
Clinicians are concerned this will leave very sick neonates without onsite access to vital sub-specialty medical and surgical services, specialised radiology and laboratory investigations. It would also mean lost opportunities for valuable multi-disciplinary team clinical input and training.
In effect, the current Labor response is ‘trust us, we’ll get to it’.
But we need a unified vision for a women’s and children’s hospital – not in 2019, but now, with more concrete details. The government has had years to work with clinicians on such a plan, and present it to the public. To not have done so by now has been a breach of faith with clinicians and all women who welcomed the shiny promise of 2013.
The child health services plan that has languished in some dusty government drawer also needs to come out. Whoever forms government must provide for other vital services for children and young people throughout this state.
All other parties of note have told the AMA(SA) that they are committed to a co-located WCH. All must be held to these undertakings.
We will not accept a winding back, or more broken promises. We will not accept a substandard offering for the women, children and babies the WCH has so faithfully served. And we will not accept decisions about the future of children’s services to continue be made without a coherent overarching plan to give our children the best care we can provide.
The AMA(SA) has placed people first in its election priorities. This includes the care of our most precious people, the children and babies of all South Australians.
A/Prof William Tam is the president of the AMA in South Australia.
Published in the Advertiser 13 March 2017