Emergency Departments

Question for the Minister for Health - Emergency Departments.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: My question is to the Minister for Health. How can the minister attribute the blowout in South Australia's emergency department waiting times to an increase in presentations when the 2 per cent increase in South Australia is well below the 2.6 per cent increase nationally and no other state had a double digit decline in the proportion of cases seen on time?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Health, Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse): I thank the honourable member for her question about emergency department waiting times. This government stands in stark contrast to those opposite when it comes to making investments in the public hospital system that would seek to address emergency department waiting times. The results in the paper, I have already stated publicly and acknowledge the fact, need to be improved upon, but we have a plan to do that.

We have a plan to do that. We have an election in March next year, and one would have thought that only a few months out from the next state election, those who proclaim to be the alternative government of the state—and I am not talking about Mr Xenophon and his crew; I am talking about what is now the formal opposition, who claim to be the alternative government of the state—would have announced their plan to address these issues. But no, instead they salivate at the opportunity to criticise without actually offering any alternative plan.

Let me articulate the government's strategy when we are talking about emergency department waiting times. First of all, the statistics that were in the paper this morning did not take into account the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, which has opened since then. Let's take the month of September, for instance. In the month of September, if you compare this year's emergency department waiting times with last year's September emergency department waiting times at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, there was a 70-minute improvement—a 70-minute improvement.

At the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, in the month of September 2017, patients waited 70 minutes less on average, I am advised, in comparison to 2016 at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Had the Liberal Party had their way and the new Royal Adelaide Hospital never been built, guess what? Patients today would still be waiting an additional 70 minutes to what is currently the case. Wednesday, 29 November 2017 LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL Page 8671

Let's talk about the other emergency departments. The state government has committed to a $270 million upgrade of The Queen Elizabeth Hospital. As part of that upgrade, we are going to build a brand-new, larger emergency department. That stands in stark contrast to the Liberal Party's policy. Let's talk about the Lyell McEwin Hospital. We have budgeted for a $52 million rebuild of the Lyell McEwin emergency department that will result in it being doubled in its capacity—doubling the capacity of the emergency department at the Lyell McEwin Hospital.

We have already committed $9 million dollars to the Modbury Hospital to facilitate improvements in that area, and there may yet be more announcements to come in respect of Modbury. Our policy in respect of Modbury, though, will be a thought through methodical one based on clinical advice, which I anticipate will stand in stark contrast to the opposition's policy on Modbury.

Then, of course, we have already seen substantial upgrades to Flinders, with more to come. We are investing in upgrading our public hospital system throughout the state because we believe in public hospitals. Public hospitals in public hands is in our DNA. We are not like those opposite who would go about the business of privatisation of public hospitals. We do the exact opposite. Any clinician—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: Yet again—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Minister, do you want to take a seat for a minute? I am finding it very difficult to even hear the minister answer a very important question, so I ask you all to desist from interjections and allow the minister to answer this important question. Minister.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: It's telling: two question times in a row, if we so much as mention the word privatisation, those opposite get ultra—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: Methinks they protest too much. You privatised Modbury. We put it back in public hands and now we are upgrading it, but it's not just about the infrastructure. Any clinician worth their salt will also tell you that patient flow is an important variable when it comes to emergency department waiting times.

Yet again, I am very glad, as Minister for Health, to have already had the opportunity to act in this respect. When we were negotiating the SASMOA enterprise bargaining agreement, or the enterprise bargaining agreement that applies to doctors, I insisted that a clause be inserted into that agreement that requires SASMOA and doctors to be able to work with nurses and other allied health professionals in conjunction with the department to improve patient flow.

It is well documented that Mondays are the busiest day of the week in our emergency departments. That defies logic. There is no obvious reason why emergency departments should be busier on Mondays in comparison to other days of the week. One of the main reasons—and there are more than one—contributing to that is a lack of patient discharge occurring over weekends.

We know we can improve that through criteria-led discharge and by having nurses exercising functions around discharge, so we have put in place a plan to deliver that, working in conjunction with doctors. That's a reform I am very much looking forward to leading over the coming months. Can we improve emergency department waiting times? Absolutely we can. Is that a worthy cause? Absolutely it is. Are we already delivering results as a result of government policy? Yes. Look at what we have achieved at the NRAH, when those opposite would have us in the ORAH.

These are the sorts of reforms that we want to continue to develop for the interests of all people in South Australia. Everyone in South Australia deserves adequate health care, not just people who have means, not just people who are willing to rack up credit card debt. All South Australians should be entitled to that access, and that's exactly what a Labor government will deliver, because public hospitals in public hands is in our DNA.