Doubts raised Joondalup Health Campus can cope with demand

Joondalup Health Campus is under pressure from a growing population.
Health Minister Roger Cook.
Joondalup MLA Jan Norberger.
Joondalup Health Campus is under pressure from a growing population. Health Minister Roger Cook. Joondalup MLA Jan Norberger.

WA Health Minister John Day heard grievances about Joondalup Health Campus from Labor and his own party in parliament last week, highlighting concerns at the hospital’s capacity to handle the district’s rapid growth.

The campus has undergone a major transformation in recent years, including $393 million in upgrades completed in 2013 and a new children’s ward, which opened earlier this year.

Despite the works, pressure continues to mount on the health hub, which has more than 500 public beds in a partnership with private operator Ramsay Health.

Concerns have been building since the WA Health Clinical Services Framework, released almost two years ago, forecast the growth in Perth’s north would outstrip the hospital’s capabilities by 2021-22.

It predicted the campus catchment area would have the biggest growth of any hospital in Perth.

Opposition health spokesman Roger Cook and Joondalup MLA Jan Norberger both raised issues in parliament last Thursday.

As to be expected, Mr Cook was far more combative in his approach as an opponent of Mr Day than Mr Norberger was as a fellow Liberal.

Mr Cook took a swipe at Mr Day’s treatment of Joondalup Health Campus (JHC), surprisingly giving kudos to former Liberal Health Minister Kim Hames.

“I begin by acknowledging the work by the former Minister for Health on the Joondalup hospital and its expansion,” he said.

“The current Minister for Health is not a patch on the old one.

“It is funny how we appreciate these people in hindsight.”

Mr Cook criticised JHC’s off-stretcher times, which describes the percentage of patients moved from an ambulance into the emergency department within 20 minutes.

In the past week, the campus was the worst performer for off-stretcher times in Perth with an average 34.4 per cent of patients moved from ambulance care within 20 minutes.

By comparison, a major hospital such as Royal Perth had a 45.66 per cent average.

Mr Cook wanted the Government to show its strategic asset plan for the Department of Health in the hope he could learn more of its position on JHC, but it had refused to do so.

“This government that is supposed to be open and transparent has demonstrated once again that it is a government of secrecy and the very opposite of transparency,” Mr Cook said.

Mr Day said the document was “cabinet-in-confidence” because it formed part of the State Budget and therefore withheld.

In Mr Norberger’s grievance, he asked the minister to “expedite discussions with the hospital about the next phase of development required to keep up with demand”.

“It is not my place to be prescriptive of the exact needs, but I know that parking is an issue at the hospital and certainly the emergency department requires additional growth,” he said.

The Weekender asked Mr Day if he considered the improvements at JHC to have been sufficient and whether the Government had plans for further upgrades.

Mr Day did not comment on whether he thought the upgrades had been sufficient, but said the Government was committed to providing support for health care in the “rapidly growing” Joondalup region.

“There are long-term plans and they are constantly under review,” he said.

“That is why expansion projects continue, with the recent opening of the new children’s ward and construction of the 10-bed, $7.1 million Mental Health Observation Unit.”

In parliament, he said hospital planning “had to be done on a co-ordinated basis in relation to growth needs across the Perth metropolitan area”.

He said he was “fascinated” with Labor’s strong interest in the hospital given the opposition did not support private-public partnerships like that of JHC.

“I note from the state WA Labor platform, amongst other things, that it will not extend any contracts for privatised hospitals or services,” he said.