ALMOST $1 billion will be ripped from the public health system in the next four years as the State Government closes hospitals and downgrades some services while claiming to improve others.
The Transforming Health reforms will slash $900 million from health spending over four years.
The figure — confirmed in an advertisement for a new SA Health chief executive to wield the cuts — came as Adelaide’s two flagship hospitals struggled to cope on a normally quiet Sunday.
Ambulances were being diverted from the Royal Adelaide Hospital to Flinders Medical Centre.
However, FMC was diverting ambulances to the downgraded Noarlunga Hospital ED, which now is supposed to accept only ambulance arrivals who do not need to be admitted.
At 3pm on Sunday, FMC was treating 54 people in its 53-capacity ED, with 18 people waiting and seven arriving by ambulance.
FMC had 11 people waiting for beds including three who had been waiting longer than 12 hours; the RAH had one person who had been waiting more than 24 hours for a bed, and another 24 people waiting for a bed for up to 12 hours.
Opposition health spokesman Stephen Wade accused the Government of “being caught red-handed attempting to deceive South Australians about the impact of divisive Transforming Health agenda”.
He noted that a government press release last week state: “Transforming Health was never about saving money”.
Mr Wade said: “Now we know Labor has plans for almost a billion dollars in cuts — Health Minister Jack Snelling must reveal precisely where his $900 million in cuts are going to be made.
“How may doctors, how many nurses and how many hospital beds will be cut to achieve the Minister’s savage budget cuts target?’
Mr Snelling addressed questions about financial targets by saying his target is “better outcomes for patients”.
“A hospital system that has better outcomes for patients is a cheaper system because you have patients spending less time in hospital and not having to come back as often,” he said.
“If your patients are healthy and spending less time in hospital your have a more affordable health system.”
Mr Wade pledged that the Opposition has “no plans to cut spending on health”, which now accounts for nearly one-third of the state budget and growing, but indicated a Liberal government would cut back on SA Health public servants.
“I assure South Australians that we have no plan to cut spending on health,” he said.
“Mr Snelling’s claim that Transforming Health is not about cuts has been exposed — rather than tackling the waste and bloated bureaucracy in health, Jack Snelling has targeted the frontline health services that South Australians rely on for their health and care.”
Mr Snelling noted SA has more doctors, nurses and beds per head of population than “almost anywhere in the world” but the outcomes were not good enough.
The advertisement for chief executive states there were “2000 unnecessary deaths” over four years in the SA Health system — this figure has been used to justify the Transforming Health reforms but has been called into question by independent health experts.