Public Works Committee: Women's and Children's Hospital Upgrade Sustainment Program

Parliamentary Committees

I rise to speak on the report that has been received in respect of the Public Works Committee's approval and recommendation of the Women's and Children's Hospital upgrade. The member for Stuart, our Minister for Energy and Mining, has explained the significance of the Women's and Children's Hospital as a statewide service, which indeed it is, and I place on the record my appreciation to the many committees around country South Australia that still raise money for the Women's and Children's Hospital in recognition of the important services that are provided, including maternity, obstetrics, paediatrics and the like.

These services have expanded over the years from the original site on the main road going north, but the relocation in the 1950s of St Peter's Girls' School up into Stonyfell in my electorate has meant that the whole of the area is now covered with women's and children's health services and medical services. I think it was during Dr Cornwall's time as the minister for health in the Bannon government that there was the closure of the Queen Victoria hospital and maternity services were transferred to that site. It is very crammed.

They are incredibly important services that are provided there at a statewide level. Its development has now removed the opportunity to have a helipad for emergency entry and exit of the facility. The Liberal government's commitment, which was from opposition, was ultimately to co-locate this hospital with the state's major tertiary hospital. Our original plan, of course, was that it come down Frome Road and be with the original site; nevertheless, the commitment of our minister is to ensure that we transfer those services.

It is terribly important because I can think of a constituent complaint that came to me early in the parliament. In that case, a lady was delivering a baby in the Victoria building at the Queen Victoria hospital, something went wrong and she required a leg amputation. During labour, she was transferred by road to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Unfortunately, her leg did require amputation, but the baby was born successfully and she was, I am pleased to say, subsequently suitably compensated for what happened in that process.

Nevertheless, access to our tertiary facilities is absolutely critical. So, in the absence of being able to bring in a helipad to the Women's and Children's Hospital, it is very important and critical that we have that now that any transfers such as that would have to go all the way down Frome Road and then all the way down North Terrace to get to the new tertiary facility. Full marks to minister Wade in pursuing that commitment and developing it.

There are three areas we still need to deal with in relation to women and children's health care in South Australia. I have been batting on about these for some time, and I am confident that, in their ongoing work, the new Minister for Health and our new Minister for Human Services and covering women's issues (the Hon. Stephen Wade and the Hon. Michelle Lensink in another place), and here in our chamber, minister Wingard, who is minister for corrections and police, are onto these issues and looking at them.

I just cannot believe that we are finally getting some serious attention to three things. Firstly, in relation to postnatal depression, our women and babies who suffer in these circumstances had to be re-accommodated in the Glenside site when the previous Labor government destroyed that site, in my view, in the sense of its commitment to sell off 40 per cent for housing and various other activities. A new facility had to be built at the back. Our mothers who deliver babies and suffer from postnatal depression are still in that acute facility out at Glenside with people with drug addiction and other serious psychiatric conditions. I think that is reprehensible. We have to keep working towards having that facility back in a women's and children's health facility.

Congratulations to the committee on approving the upgrade of Boylan Ward, which of course treats children with mental health conditions. However, I think we are leaving our mothers abandoned in these circumstances. They need to have the full support of appropriate arrangements, bearing in mind that, in the first place, they were only ever sent to Glenside for care because there was not room in the Women's and Children's Hospital after the co-location.

Secondly, children who are born to women whilst they are in custody, in prison, need to be considered. We do not want them having to be accommodated in Boylan Ward down the track because of early separation from their mothers. We suffered a shameful statistic in South Australia when the previous Labor government closed down the capacity for this to happen in this state. I think we are the only mainland state left that does not allow for children who are born to women in prison to be able to stay with them, whether it is for months or for a couple of years. We have nothing in South Australia for this. It must be addressed.

Thirdly, this is for women, particularly younger women, who suffer from eating disorders. I can remember being in this chamber when the former health minister under the Labor government closed down beds, precious beds at the Flinders Medical Centre to help treat young women who were facing death from starvation as a result of conditions that they had. These are life-threatening conditions, and for the former government to have closed down services—not completely but reducing them—in this state was shameful.

I think this is another area of urgent need. Again, we owe it to our young people, our young mothers and our young children to provide them with a comprehensive service to ensure that they can have a purposeful and contributing life in South Australia in the future. These are three areas that I will continue to advocate for and that we need to continue to build. So, Public Works Committee, get ready for what we still need to do.