Freo in emergency

The Fremantle Hospital Emergency Department will close next year.
The Fremantle Hospital Emergency Department will close next year.

The closure of the Emergency Department in February, 2015, as well as the relocation of complicated surgeries to Fiona Stanley Hospital, will mean the loss of more than 55,000 emergency patients as well as 113,000 outpatients and 39,000 inpatients. Full-time equivalent staff would drop from 3100 to about 1200.

The hit to community and business leaders was palpable at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast last week as hospital director David Blythe announced what the changes would mean for Fremantle.

Mayor Brad Pettitt said the jobs represented about 5.6 per cent of Fremantle’s workforce and would cost the Fremantle economy $250-$300 million.

The City remains desperate to attract more workers into the CBD with the 1000 long-promised Department of Housing employees yet to show any signs of eventuating.

‘If the State Government is serious about supporting the revitalisation process the Fremantle council has been driving then it is time for them to firm up their commitment to moving government offices to Fremantle as they promised in 2010,’ Mr Pettitt said.

‘They are making all the right noises but these promises now need to be turned into concrete, timely action.’

The Gazette approached Mr Barnett’s office last week but the questions were handballed to Finance Minister Dean Nalder, who made no comment about Fremantle at all.

‘Options continue to be considered that provide long term benefits to our growing State, including improved community access to services, benefits to local economies and a reduction in traffic congestion in the Perth CBD,’ he said.

‘We have already gone out for expressions of interest for the provision of office accommodation in Joondalup, in line with election commitments.”

It only took a day for Fremantle’s leaders to start putting a brave face on the news that 1900 jobs will leave town when the Fremantle Hospital restructures next year.

By Wednesday, Fremantle Dr Pettitt and Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tim Milsom were in lockstep, claiming the State Government was driving changes to the health sector and had to be responsible for delivering jobs to offset its impact on Fremantle.

‘As the Premier often says: ‘private investment will follow public investment’,’ Dr Pettitt said.

‘The City of Fremantle has committed to tens of millions of public investment in Fremantle. We now need the State Government to back us so the private sector investment can speed up as well.’

Dr Pettitt said the problem for the Kings Square projects was uncertainty caused by the delays to the State government office accommodation process.

Both Dr Pettitt and Mr Milsom were adamant that Fremantle could weather this storm.

‘This is really about State government decisions aiding rather than undermining confidence and investment in Fremantle,’ Dr Pettitt said.

‘Despite the hospital job loss impacts, the recovery of Fremantle is already well underway.

Read this week’s editorial.