The public is mostly ignorant of how important the visiting consultant staff is in the running of public hospitals.
Public hospitals provide medical care of public patients free of charge by recently graduated salaried doctors, some undergoing a year of compulsory basic training, and others more senior, working in positions that provide specialist training. A double role is thus met: Medical treatment for those unable to afford private care; basic and specialist training for junior doctors.
Few patients would consent to be “guinea-pigs” for treatment even when it is without charge, by inexperienced doctors, but for the supervision of more experienced, fully trained specialist consultants.
Visiting senior doctors do not need to be at the hospital full-time. Most receive a stipend based on the number of sessions provided for teaching hospital rounds with students, outpatient consultations and operating lists. The rest of the week they devote to looking after private patients in their own practices, but in this time they are on call for emergencies. It is then that they need to be able to reach the hospital as quickly and easily as possible. Most consultants live in the more affluent suburbs to the north, east and south of the city. Consulting rooms and private hospitals are similarly located. To get to the new hospital, visiting staff will have to traverse the increasingly crowded streets of the CBD, with delays that could be critical in emergencies.
The RAH staff has provided high standards of care since 1840. The most expensive hospital in Australia will be valueless without their support. Why have they opposed the shift? It is: Location Location Location. The railway site is just not in the same class. Where would you prefer to live; the East or the West End? A consideration for the government is the value of the old hospital site in an asset sale.
It was an article by Brad Crouch entitled “Last of the hard men”, The Advertiser, January 18, 2013 that motivated this post. It revived memory of the arrogant attitude of the former Rann administration in quelling opposition to their development plans with former Treasurer Kevin Foley admitting that in politics “you have to be a bit of a prick”. In the lead-up to the 2010 state election a group of eminent doctors from the hospital opposed relocation of the hospital. Their concerns were dismissed by Health Minister John Hill, who denigrated them as “retired or part-time”, and therefore irrelevant. The doctors were silenced, and their views ignored; Labor was re-elected, and duly construction commenced in June 2011.