WA Labor has committed to new services at Royal Perth Hospital if it wins next month's state election but won't fully redevelop the ageing facility, as long promised by the Liberals.
The state opposition says it will build a “medi-hotel”, urgent care clinic and mental health observation area at the CBD hospital for $45.5 million, while health spokesman Roger Cook promised “ongoing maintenance and care” to the existing, run-down building.
WA Treasurer Mike Nahan said in May 2015 it was “clapped out” and demolishing it was an option, saying a new, modern hospital would be “much more efficient and effective than an old one that’s been built in a hodge-podge manner”.
Health Minister John Day labelled Labor’s announcement a big con.
“They need to explain where are they going to get the money from, who is going to lose their jobs and what services are going to be cut,” Mr Day said.
“They also say there is going to be a review of services provided at the hospital, so what does that mean?”
Mr Cook was focused on medi-hotels, saying they had been implemented successfully in other states, freeing up hospital beds and enabling more patients to be treated.
The purpose-built hotels are near tertiary hospitals and designed to support patients who have been discharged but are still recovering and require monitoring or outpatient tests.
While WA Labor has also pledged to roll-back where possible the privatisation of public health and hospital services, Mr Cook said the RPH medi-hotel could be run by a private operator.
“The important distinction here is these are not hospitals,” he said.
The opposition has long lashed the Liberals over RPH, saying the party failed to honour election promises in 2008 and 2013 to completely redevelop the hospital, which was established in 1829 and is the state’s oldest.
Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller says the wait for a redevelopment plan has gone on far too long and what was once the state’s pre-eminent hospital is now an embarrassment.
But Mr Day said the Liberals had saved RPH, where $58 million had been spent over the past eight years.
He also cited the party’s promise in December to upgrade the helipad to take new, heavier emergency helicopters so the facility can remain the state’s key trauma centre.
That pledge, however, came many months after an urgent request by the Health Department, while the other spending was only on critical maintenance.
Deputy Premier Liza Harvey dismissed Labor’s commitment as headline-grabbing and also listed the Barnett government’s big investment in health, including the recent commitment to upgrade Joondalup Health Campus at a cost of $140 million.
She also cited Fiona Stanley Hospital and Perth Children’s Hospital, which were both beset by problems including construction delays and cost over-runs.
There is still no opening date for the new children’s hospital, which is more than a year overdue and where lead remains in the drinking water.