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AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (WA)
Western Australia must ensure that mistakes made during the contract negotiations, the design and then the construction of the new Perth Children’s Hospital were never repeated, Australian Medical Association (WA) President Dr Omar Khorshid told a Parliamentary Committee recently.
Giving verbal evidence to the Public Accounts Committee Inquiry into the Management and Oversight of the Perth Children’s Hospital Project, Dr Khorshid said it was vital that important lessons were learnt from the $1.5 billion project to ensure they were not repeated on other infrastructure builds.
Dr Khorshid was asked by the Committee to appear before Members to provide additional information and answer questions following the lodging of a written submission by the AMA (WA) on the project.
“It has been great to see the investment in health infrastructure over the last few years. Most of those projects have gone very well. This one has not,” Dr Khorshid told the Committee.
“We would really like to think that the next time a big investment is made in health, or in any other area, that these mistakes are not made again.”
He told the Committee that there were many questions about the negotiating of the contract, the choice of builder and the construction itself that needed to be answered.
He said the mistakes had impacted most heavily on staff at Princess Margaret Hospital.
Dr Khorshid told the Committee of the frustration that many medical professionals felt about the hospital.
“We have watched it rise from the initial concrete slab. It is very close to the AMA’s building. Many of us drive past it every day. It is extremely frustrating to see a completed, very beautiful building with no patients, no families and no doctors or nurses in there doing anything useful,” he said.
Dr Khorshid commended the Public Accounts Committee for taking on an inquiry into the biggest, most expensive and most complicated piece of infrastructure in WA’s history.
“You have the negatives of a big move about to come and changing models of care and changing staffing structures without the positive of actually being able to move into the new facility. The absolute uncertainty hanging over everybody is that two years later we still do not have a date for opening,” he said.
Dr Khorshid also reminded the committee of the State Government’s failure to “future proof” the new hospital by providing additional floors for future expansion.
“…the AMA made very strong statements at the time that we felt the hospital was too small and that for a reasonably modest investment, it could be future-proofed by adding floors, not necessarily fitting them out, just putting in the basic infrastructure that you need …. It is a straightforward thing to make your hospital big enough to deliver the services that are required,” Dr Khorshid said.
Dr Khorshid also repeated the AMA (WA)’s long-term stance on the question of lead in the water at the new hospital.
“From a medical profession’s point of view, we want the hospital open as soon as possible but it must be safe. Any water that comes into contact with patients or any water that is going to be drunk or consumed has got to be safe. We do not support opening the hospital early on the basis of some future rectification works,” he said.
The Committee is due to table its report on the hospital project by the end of the year.