Children's Health Services

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:30): My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister update the council on children's health services?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:30): If I could take the opportunity to clarify my previous statement. There are no representatives on the task force. There are no formal representatives of any employer organisation or any other organisation. The point is that members were appointed on their merits. Nominations came from within SA Health and from within other organisations.

I thank the honourable member for his question. The Marshall Liberal government is committed to delivering improved health services to all South Australians. As of this week, one special group of South Australians will receive significantly improved services as the new neonatal intensive care unit is opened at Flinders Medical Centre. The $17.5 million purpose-built facility was officially opened on Saturday, with its residents being moved yesterday and today.

The redevelopment of the neonatal facility incorporates state-of-the-art technology and is based on a family-integrated model of care. Being 30 per cent larger than the old unit, the new neonatal intensive care unit includes a total of 50 beds, with 16 neonatal intensive care beds, 10 high dependency beds and 24 special care beds. The FMC neonatal unit has a national reputation for providing world-class care for high-risk, preterm newborns and babies, with a track record of clinical innovation, the use of information technology and research.

It is also recognised for having one of the highest rates of survival without disability of infants that are born extremely preterm—less than 28 weeks—in Australia and New Zealand. The new larger neonatal unit has been designed with families at the centre of their baby's care. It will reinforce that reputation and hopefully raise it even further. The redevelopment will not only benefit residents in Adelaide's south, it will continue to accommodate some of the most critical and complex cases from around the state and the Northern Territory. There are approximately 1,250 sick and preterm babies treated there every year.

The move yesterday and today from the old unit to the new unit will involve around 35 babies. The move has been meticulously planned with each vulnerable baby accompanied by a doctor and a nurse. This milestone for the unit comes just three years after it was threatened with closure. The former Labor government had proposed to close the Flinders neonatal intensive care unit under Transforming Health.

The neonatal unit is an integral part of the southern community and the proposed centralisation from Labor rightly outraged clinicians and families. This simply was another one of the former government's many backflips following the destruction of the South Australian health system under Transforming Health. The plan would have seen parents of some of the highest acuity babies having to travel an extra 15 kilometres to visit their newborns at the Women's and Children's Hospital. I wish the babies and their families all the best as they complete their journey to the new neonatal unit and begin the long journey of life.