Less than eight months after the opening of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA’s new Health Minister says the emergency department may have to be partly rebuilt because rooms are not big enough to treat critically ill and injured patients.
Stephen Wade said patients and staff were at risk because eight resuscitation rooms inside the department were not fit for purpose.
“There’s not enough room for clinicians to be able to access critically unwell patients and there are problems in disposing of sharp objects and soiled equipment,” he said.
During construction, the $2.3 billion hospital earned a reputation as Australia’s most expensive building and was beset by delays and cost blowouts.
Two workers were killed in accidents at the site, and one of those incidents is being investigated by the coroner.
The emergency department was officially opened in September, but was almost immediately the subject of criticism for failing to ease congestion in the health system.
In February, operations were disrupted when a software failure left part of the site temporarily without power.
Mr Wade said staff were trialling modifications to the emergency rooms to see if they could overcome the latest problems.
But he added “there are serious concerns that that won’t be enough and we face a major rebuild”.
If structural work is needed, taxpayers would end up footing the bill, which Mr Wade said would easily rise into millions of dollars.
“Not only that, we would lose one-third of the resuscitation room capacity at the hospital and it would also mean that staff and patients would face disruption for an extended period,” he said.
“One of the options I understand is to actually combine two resuscitation rooms into one.
“The modification of two existing rooms would require major structural work, involving architects, engineers and builders at a substantial cost to taxpayers.”
AMA backs rebuild to fix problems permanently
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) welcomed the Government’s commitment to fixing the problem, saying a “rebuild may become necessary … to provide the best working environment”.
“This is something that clinicians and the AMA have been raising for some time, since before and also after the opening of the Royal Adelaide Hospital,” state president associate professor William Tam said.
“Resuscitation is such an important part of what we do in day-to-day practice and that is why the clinicians have been very vocal in raising these concerns.
“In the short-term, we will look at removing non-essential items around the room. For instance the benchtops, the fridge, the pendants, to try and increase the floorspace in order to allow doctors and nurses to work effectively.”
Mr Wade was sworn in as Health Minister on Thursday, after the Liberals’ claimed last Saturday’s election, ending 16 years of Labor government.
He placed the blame squarely on his predecessors, including former health minister and future Labor leader Peter Malinauskas.
“This is another example of the former Labor government not being upfront with the problems in the health system,” Mr Wade said.
An Opposition spokesperson said the dimensions of the resuscitation rooms all met Australian Healthcare Facility Guidelines.
“The Opposition reminds Mr Wade he was sworn in as Health Minister on Thursday, and it is now his responsibility to get on with the job,” the spokesperson said.
“It’s remarkable he appears more interested in playing politics than accepting the responsibility that is now invested in him.”