McGinty hospital decision haunts Labor

Photo Place THINKIN this week’s THINKING ALLOWED, independent Fremantle MP ADELE CARLES explores the politics and history behind the pending decision to close the Fremantle Emergency Department when the new Fiona Stanley Hospital in Murdoch opens.

‘[Simone McGurk has] conveniently forgotten that Jim McGinty, former Member for Fremantle and Labor health minister, was the architect of the demise of the Fremantle Hospital ED’

When the new Fiona Stanley hospital opens in the next two years, the Barnett government plans to close our Fremantle Emergency Department.

Since being elected in 2009, I have consistently put the issue of retaining the FED on the political agenda. Sixty-thousand patients use our FED every year, with demand increasing. I have petitioned parliament, spoken out in parliament and in the media and lobbied the health minister.

The Labor candidate for Fremantle has recently seized on the issue of keeping our Fremantle ED open. She claims under “the Barnett minority Liberal government’s planning document for health, Fremantle Hospital’s Emergency Department will disappear altogether” which would result in “just another nail in the coffin for health services in Freo”. (Herald, December 22, 2012).

It’s a wonderful thing, selective memory and that’s what the Labor candidate is counting on. She’s conveniently forgotten that Jim McGinty, former Member for Fremantle and Labor health minister, was the architect of the demise of the Fremantle Hospital ED. She fails to mention the former Labor government endorsed the Reid Report’s plan to close Fremantle Hospital’s ED as “a rigorous, well-thought through, evidence-based plan for the future delivery of health care”. (ABC April, 2007). 

It was Jim McGinty who accepted that Fremantle Hospital would be relegated to “providing a range of general hospital services including rehabilitation, community care, aged care, mental health services, day surgery and supported palliative care” (March 29, 2004). Important tertiary services would go to Fiona Stanley.

The former Labor government was not interested in the obvious negative impact for Fremantle residents in losing the ED. Jim McGinty as our Member for Fremantle did not represent us by arguing for its retention. Ironically, he did the exact opposite and now the reality of his decision is hitting home. Labor turned its back on the needs of Fremantle people. Now the Labor candidate is pretending this never happened.

You may wonder why the Fremantle Greens have been curiously quiet about this crucial Fremantle issue. They are silent about it because Greens MLC and leader Giz Watson quietly supported Jim McGinty in planning its closure. In essence, the Greens are now gagged by their own complicity. At least they are not attempting to re-write history like the Labor candidate.

The decision to close our ED, planned by the former Labor government and set to be implemented by the minority Liberal government, is damning for us in Fremantle.

The long-term implications of not having an ED at Fremantle Hospital are enormous—lives will inevitably be threatened and in some cases people will die. Every second literally counts in an emergency situation and that time lost in the drive to Murdoch to join the queue at the new Fiona Stanley may cost lives.

This is a legacy of decades of complacency in Labor representation in Fremantle. The Labor candidate’s rhetoric is disingenuous. Recently a Fremantle constituent challenged her about this on Facebook. She said on November 20, 2012: “I am not the previous Health Minister so if you have an issue with his work or policy, please take it up with him. I am merely talking about my policy and the policy that I have been able to get WA Labor to commit to.” Another misrepresentation by her.

The parliamentary Labor party in Opposition “had a rethink” on the issue under pressure from media that I had generated about this issue.

In June 2011, I renewed my call to the Barnett government to keep the Fremantle ED open and, under media pressure, Labor health shadow minister Roger Cook said “the party’s had a rethink.” (Herald, June 25, 2011).

Claim credit

Around this very time, the Herald reported that Simone McGurk was emphatic she wouldn’t be nominating for Labor in Fremantle: “I’m not standing for the seat. I just got elected for four years as secretary of Unions WA this year.” In other words, she was working with Unions WA at the time, not with the parliamentary Labor party on the Fremantle health policy. She didn’t get preselected for Fremantle until March 19, 2012.

McGurk’s attempt to claim credit for Labor’s change of mind on the ED raises serious questions about claims she may make if elected as MP. In a recent Thinking Allowed, a Fremantle GP, Dr Brett Montgomery pulled her up on misrepresentations she had made to the media about Fremantle health services.

Fremantle people simply deserve better than this.

The bottom line is we have a very serious issue facing us in Fremantle with the closure of our ED when Fiona Stanley opens. I will not give up on fighting for our valuable ED to stay open.

There is simply too much at stake.

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