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Concerns about relocation of SA rehabilitation services

Emma Breheny
6 October 2016

The South Australian government’s Transforming Health plan will close two rehabilitation services (Repatriation General Hospital and Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre) and integrate them into Flinders Medical Centre and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH). While the APA supports giving patients earlier access to rehabilitation after stroke or surgery, there are concerns about the size and design of the proposed new therapy space at TQEH.

‘In principle there is support for it; it will make the transition to rehab smoother and the rehab process more efficient and patient-centred. But we need the facilities to be fit for purpose,’ Andrew Zoerner, APAM, explains.

‘Rehabilitation inherently requires a substantial area of space for therapy and also office space for staff, both of which need to be close to the ward.’

Rehabilitation services at HRC currently consist of spinal injury rehabilitation, brain injury rehabilitation and general rehabilitation, which includes stroke, orthopaedic, and amputee and reconditioning rehabilitation.

The APA’s concerns centre on the proposed size of therapy space, multidisciplinary team rooms (‘blue space’), and the poor proximity between each therapy space and its corresponding ward and blue space.

‘Patient flow is very important. If you can’t get patients out of acute beds to rehab it affects the flow from the emergency department to the acute wards and that results in ambulance ramping and so on,’ Andrew says. ‘This can really challenge the safety and quality of care.’

It was these aspects that Andrew focused on in his address to the rally held in central Adelaide in June, which was organised by ParaquadSA and The Friends of The Queen Elizabeth Hospital to show support for the clinicians’ stance and raise awareness of the current proposals.

‘Any worker in any industry needs adequate tools of trade in order to do their job properly,’ Andrew said on the day.

Following the rally, physiotherapists at TQEH and HRC participated in renewed consultations with SA Health, where nine options were presented by planners. However, none addressed the major concerns of the APA and a letter has since been sent to Minister for Health Jack Snelling, reiterating our position.

The APA is calling for a re-design that reflects similar principles to those in kitchen design of creating a triangle between the three major stations of oven, sink and refrigerator. In the context of TQEH, therapy space, wards and blue space must all sit within this triangular configuration.

Asked whether physiotherapists would still be able to perform their jobs in the currently planned services, Andrew replied ‘We’d be able to do it but in a very limited capacity compared to what we do now. That would result in poorer outcomes and longer lengths of stay.’

Any physiotherapist who is concerned with the future of rehabilitation services in South Australia is encouraged to contact the SA Branch.


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