Parliamentary Speech: Peel Health Campus Crisis


Monday 7 November 2022

As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough, the city of Mandurah in the heart of my constituency is home to over 90,000 people. Its population has more than doubled in the last 20 years to become one of the biggest cities in Western Australia; however, local services have not kept up with that population growth. A perfect example is the Peel Health Campus. The Peel Health Campus is the only major hospital in Mandurah and the broader Peel region. It was built in the nineties, and since then has remained largely unchanged. Back in 2019 I ran a grassroots campaign and, with the people of Mandurah, secured $25 million from the previous coalition government to upgrade the emergency department at the hospital.

But what has the Premier, Mark McGowan, and the WA state Labor government done since they came to power in 2017? They've poured $10 million into a new car park. The hospital is yet to receive upgrades promised by the Premier and WA state Labor over a year ago. Peel Health Campus no longer has the capacity to properly service the needs of our community. We have unacceptable emergency waiting times, insufficient services, pensioners without ready access to important treatments and record high ambulance ramping times. This is quite shocking: last month ramping hours skyrocketed to more than 565—that's more than 18 hours a day.

Since then WA has earned another shameful title, reporting its worst annual ambulance ramping figures on record. In just 10 months, ambulances have spent more than 54,000 hours ramped outside WA hospitals. When WA Labor came to government in 2017, annual ramping sat at 9,819 hours. Nurses are working double shifts to make up for staff shortages and still Premier Mark McGowan is slow to listen and slow to act on this issue. The evidence is right in front of him, yet he continues to deflect by blaming our failing hospital system on a decline in GP numbers and bulk-billing practices. Let's not forget: these are not just figures; these are Western Australians waiting outside hospitals in an ambulance for life-saving treatment, and there is a human cost to this.

My constituents have reached out to me with their experiences at Peel Health Campus. One of the most troubling was from Jean, aged 88, from Meadow Springs. On 26 September Jean began experiencing sharp pain in her feet and legs. She was reluctant to go to hospital as her last visit, 10 days earlier, resulted in her sitting in a waiting room in the emergency department for eight hours. After enduring excruciating pain for two days, in which she was unable to stand and needed to crawl on her hands and knees to the toilet, Jean called an ambulance on 28 September. Ambulance staff assessed her and took her straight to the Peel Health Campus at 9.45 am. For the entire day Jean sat in a wheelchair in the waiting room with no pain relief, no food and no water.

At about 8.30 pm Jean and other patients in triage, many of whom were elderly, were advised that the hospital was extremely short-staffed, there were no beds and no medical assessments would be done that evening. The patients waiting in the emergency department had two options: either find their own way to Rockingham hospital, about 40 minutes to our north, or go home. Jean, still in severe pain and unable to stand, was put in a taxi and sent home. She was in such distress and pain that she asked a taxi driver to stop in at her neighbour Vicki's house.

It was Vicki who brought this terrible experience to my attention. In a letter to me, Vicki wrote:

It is absolutely disgusting and shameful that we do not have adequate facilities to treat our elderly with the respect and dignity they deserve.

Vicki is right: this is just not good enough. The people of the Peel region elected three state Labor members of parliament who have all remained silent on this issue: David Templeman, the member for Mandurah; Robyn Clarke, the member Murray-Wellington; and Lisa Munday—an ex-paramedic herself—the member for Dawesville. They should hang their heads in shame for not standing up for our community or for advocating within their government. I note that David Templeman is in the state cabinet. We should have better advocacy from our local state members.

WA trusted Premier Mark McGowan and, month after month, he continues to let us down. It is time for him and his government to act and to deliver the health services the people of the Peel region deserve.