Politics Sector News — 27 January 2016

THE planned $15 million veterans’ mental health facility at Glenside to replace Ward 17 at the Repatriation General Hospital was scaled back shortly before its official announcement last week.

Original plans for the facility seen by The Advertiser show a larger gym and meeting room, while a storeroom and four offices have been removed — the offices replaced by a zone simply marked ‘future expansion’.

The new design has medical gases to just four of the acute inpatient rooms compared to all 24 in the original plan.

The Advertiser understands the project’s building design committee held a meeting on January 18 to discuss problems meeting the $15 million budget and approved the changes.

Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos along with Health Minister Jack Snelling announced the updated concept plans two days later as Ms Vlahos’ first major announcement since being elevated to Cabinet.

The concept plans were cautiously welcomed by the RSL and are available for public comment until February 17.

In response to questions about why plans were scaled back, Ms Vlahos released a statement.

“As with any building design process, there have been ongoing discussions between our expert design group — comprised of veterans, ex-service organisations, clinicians and architects — in developing a draft design for the community to provide feedback on,” the statement says.

“As we announced last week, we have asked the veterans’ community to have their say on the draft concept plans before they are finalised.

“Based on clinical advice, only four ward rooms require reticulated medical glasses, not 24.

“The design also contains contingencies for future developments in medical treatment. We have always committed to spending $15 million on this precinct.”

 Prominent critic of the Transforming Health project, Flinders University Emeritus Professor Warren Jones, predicted veterans with major physical as well as mental health issues would not be treated at the new facility because — unlike the Repat — there will not be general hospital services.

“They obviously had clinical advice originally that they needed oxygen and suction in all 24 beds but now the advice has been tailored to the budget,” he said.

“They have recognised but never before admitted that because there are no medical support services at Glenside, older sick veterans will not be admitted there.

“Where will the older sick vets go?”

Opposition health spokesman Stephen Wade said it was “a broken promise within a broken promise and veterans are again the losers”.

“First this Labor Government was never ever going to sell the Repat then it was going to provide as good if not better facilities at Glenside,” he said.

“Now we learn that the new ward lacks key medical services available at Daw Park which will make it even harder for a Glenside unit to admit patients with more than one health issue.

“This was a budget driven decision — you don’t hold urgent meetings two days before an announcement to check that you haven’t got too much clinical services or that the gym is too big.”

This article first appeared on ‘The Advertiser’ on 26 January 2016.

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