Galaxy poll reveals opposition to South Australian Labor government’s Transforming Health plan

CONTROVERSIAL plans to transform the states’s public health system are facing overwhelming rejection as an exclusive opinion poll reveals almost two-thirds opposition to the landmark reforms.

In a fresh blow to the embattled Transforming Health agenda, the Galaxy/Sunday Mail poll reveals 64 per cent of respondents are opposed to the plan to cut back services at some hospitals and boost them at others.

Even a majority of Labor supporters — 56 per cent — is rejecting the State Government plan, which involves downgrading hospitals including the Queen Elizabeth and upgrading others — particularly building the $2.3 billion, 800-bed Royal Adelaide.

Almost a quarter of the 869 voters polled — 23 per cent — declared support for Transforming Health, launched in February last year after multi-million dollar upgrades were frozen in 2014 at metropolitan hospitals including the QEH, Flinders Medical Centre and Noarlunga.

Health Minister Jack Snelling said he was unsurprised by the poll results, declaring all major reform was initially unpopular, but Opposition Leader Steven Marshall warned health professionals opposed the dangerous cuts and the public would not stand for them either.

The influential nurses’ union on Friday warned emergency departments were already struggling and questioned how the system would cope with a speculated cut of 200 metropolitan hospital beds.

Transforming Health involves closing the Repatriation General Hospital late next year and downgrading emergency departments at Queen Elizabeth, Modbury and Noarlunga hospitals.

The new RAH, Flinders Medical Centre and Lyell McEwin will become Adelaide’s major hospitals with “super” emergency departments.

Three dedicated elective surgery centres will be created, with multi-day surgery at the QEH, and day surgery at Noarlunga and Modbury.

The initial government report argued SA has more hospital beds per capita than the rest of the nation and curbing unnecessarily long stays in hospital and improving processes, like admission and discharge, would mean fewer beds were needed.

The Galaxy/Sunday Mail poll, taken between September 12-14, found most respondents — 45 per cent — were strongly opposed to the Transforming Health plan, while only six per cent were strong supporters.

Just under 20 per cent expressed lukewarm support, while 19 per cent were partly opposed.

Liberals were hotly opposed, declaring 70 per cent opposition and 23 per cent support, while one-third of Labor backers supported the reforms.

Mr Snelling said Transforming Health’s early benefits were being realised, including a one-hour reduction in waiting times at the Lyell McEwin’s ED and a 45-minute equivalent at Modbury.

“All health reform is unpopular to begin with,” he told the Sunday Mail.

“As the benefits of these reforms become increasingly evident, I’m confident public support will grow.”

He also said patients in northern Adelaide’s two public hospitals were being admitted sooner from emergency departments, despite a five per cent increase in presentations this winter compared to last year.

Mr Marshall said the state Liberals opposed Labor’s cuts to outer metropolitan hospitals and the Repat’s closure.

“Unfortunately the Weatherill Labor Government is making the same mistake they made with child protection — they aren’t listening to experts and are stubbornly forging ahead with dangerous policies,” he said.

What is the Transforming Health plan

“It is time for Labor to put an end to their dangerous plans.”

Labor previously has unveiled two major health reform plans since deposing the Liberals in 2002 — the most significant in 2007 triggering the new RAH — designed as the pre-eminent centre for major medical treatment.

But the RAH, which will have 700 overnight beds in individual rooms and 100 day beds, has been hit by delays and a bitter dispute with the builder has thrown the handover date out until at least June next year — more likely next spring to avoid the busy winter flu peak.