Hospital Services

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (14:29): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Health and Wellbeing regarding hospital services.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: I have spoken in this council on many occasions about issues concerning families and children, including, of course, altruistic surrogacy. Will the minister update the council about the work of the Women's and Children's Hospital?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:30): Through you, Mr President, I thank the honourable member for his question and his ongoing interest in public health.

Yesterday marked the day in 1878 when the foundation stone was laid for Adelaide's first Children's Hospital, marking 140 years of caring for South Australian children. The services that the Women's and Children's Hospital offers to South Australians today stand on the shoulders of 14 decades of care. The need for the original Children's Hospital was highlighted in The Register of 6 December 1876, and it read:

In 1875 the death rate in the City of Adelaide was more than 40 per cent greater than in the remainder of the colony…We cannot accept the verdict, 'Died by the visitation of God,' when the true cause is human neglect…That the causes of this excessive mortality are not far to seek any one will admit who has been familiar by experience with the vile stenches that pervade our streets, the utter want of drainage throughout the city, and the plague spots in the shape of foul slaughterhouses and ruinous overcrowded habitations, reeking with pestilence, which are found to be in Adelaide.

It was this strong public sentiment which led to the development of the hospital and, following the laying of the foundation stone, it opened to patients just a year later on 6 August 1879.

Although the Children's Hospital did not become the Women's and Children's Hospital until 1984, it has a proud history of engaging with women. The foundation committee consisted of eight women and one man. In 1893, the hospital employed South Australia's first female medical school graduate, Dr Laura Fowler.

The Queen Victoria Hospital, whose amalgamation with the Children's Hospital founded what we now know as the Women's and Children's Hospital, was not far behind the Children's Hospital. The Queen Victoria Hospital was opened on 24 May 1902, the day that would have been Queen Victoria's 103rd birthday. In 1975, the state's first neonatal intensive care unit was opened at the Queen Victoria Hospital and from its opening until its merger with the Children's Hospital nearly a quarter of a million South Australians began their lives at that hospital. Now, under the Marshall Liberal government, the Women's and Children's Hospital will get a new lease of life as we deliver on our commitment to relocate the Women's and Children's Hospital.

As promised in our 100-day plan, the Liberal government has established a high-level task force, chaired by former Women's and Children's Hospital chief executive, Mr Jim Birch. The task force will identify the capital cost of the project, the number of inpatient beds required and the statewide models of care required to support its day-to-day operations. The task force has already commenced work and I look forward to receiving their report later this year or early next year. There will be appropriate engagement with clinicians and the community as we move through this process.

During the first year of the hospital, there were, as I understand it, 168 patients. It is estimated that this year, the Women's and Children's Hospital will see 4,800 babies born, 46,000 children are estimated to present at the emergency department, 16,000 women will come to the Women's Assessment Service and 220,000 outpatients across the network will receive care.

I congratulate everyone who has contributed over the years to the work of the Women's and Children's Hospital and before it, to the Queen Victoria Hospital and the Children's Hospital. I thank the clinicians and medical staff, in the first place, and acknowledge the substantial support given by foundations associated with the hospital.