AMA (WA) helped get best deal for WA kids | AMA (WA)


AMA (WA) helped get best deal for WA kids

Tuesday February 1, 2011

Health Minister Kim Hames’ assurance last month  that it was “full steam ahead” for the new $1.7 billion children’s hospital, caused me to reflect on the chain of events leading up to this point – and the AMA’s role in helping achieve the best possible outcome.

The journey began when the Reid Report provoked discussion as to the future of Perth’s teaching hospitals, which had been fixed for many decades.

Out of this debate the possibility was raised that the children’s hospital could be located in the north block of Royal Perth Hospital which was destined to be vacated.

To the AMA(WA) – and many in the medical profession – this did not appear to be in the best interest of the children of Western Australia and their families and led to the coining of the phrase “hand-me-down hospital”, to describe the proposal.

Fortunately, vigorous lobbying by the AMA(WA) and others saw this proposal mothballed.

The Clinical Staff Association of Princess Margaret Hospital suggested that in an ideal world the children’s hospital should be located close to, but independent of, an adult tertiary hospital.

It should also be co-located with the women’s hospital and central to the users in the metropolitan area.

When the obvious question of why PMH could not be redeveloped on its existing site was raised, the then Director General Neil Fong assured the CSA that it was economically not viable.

The study which came to this conclusion was promised to be sent to the CSA – but was never sighted.

The final decision to locate the new children’s hospital close to an adult centre (QE2MC) will offer advantages, but also risks as bureaucrats with an eye to the bottom line will try to rationalise services and restrict paediatric-only services.

Clearly, there will be many challenges making sure that specialised paediatric pathology services and radiology services – among others – are maintained.

However, the main reason the CSA supported moving the children’s hospital to the QE2 campus was to co-locate with the women’s hospital.

Regrettably, it is now clear this will not be done in the immediate or perhaps long term future.

Another issue starting to gain attention is the naming of the new hospital.

The Minister recently announced that the name Princess Margaret Hospital for Children will not be retained and, given the muted response to this announcement, this will almost certainly be the case.

While there was some argument that the PMH “brand name” was important, many also feel that a new name is consistent with a new beginning as a new era in paediatric health in WA is ushered in.

Concern was also expressed among clinical staff as to the proposed number of beds in the new hospital as this has fluctuated wildly in subsequent announcements.

In the latest January statement, a figure of 274 beds was mentioned.

This is certainly more generous than some of the earlier assessments which were under 200.

It is difficult to predict these things and staff have stressed the need to have flexibility in building the hospital so that changes can be made if projections prove to be wrong.

At present, the emergency department at PMH sees 66,000 children per year and this has been growing by more than 10% a year.

Hopefully, as our population grows, the stand-alone paediatric emergency services now being opened at Joondalup Health Campus (and eventually in the new Fiona Stanley Hospital) will see more parents take their children to these alternative sites.

The challenge, of course, will be to transfer all that is best about the current children’s hospital, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and enhance it in the new hospital.





Prof Gary Gellhoed