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Time to cut bloated health bureaucracy

The State Liberals are calling on the Health Minister to explain why the health bureaucracy has escaped his planned cuts when patient services are being slashed right across Adelaide’s hospital network.

“The uncontrolled growth of South Australia’s health bureaucracy under Labor highlights its warped priorities and lack of focus on better health outcomes for South Australians, ” Shadow Minister for Health Stephen Wade said.


“Over the last decade, the size of the State’s central health bureaucracy has more than doubled, from around 800 positions in 2005 to in excess of 2150 positions today.[1]


“The health office bureaucracy has grown by a whopping 167% - that’s four time faster than the rate of growth of the nursing workforce (43%),


“A bloated health bureaucracy not only sucks dollars out of frontline services, it weighs down doctors, nurses and others health practitioners and stops them from getting on with caring for patients.”


In a submission to the Transforming Health process, the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association warned that an ever increasing need to fight the bureaucracy of SA Health over a relentless stream of new bureaucratic processes and controls” had become a “daily” challenge for doctors that was “undermining the care and the doctor’s ability to provide efficient and safe care to patients.”[2]


Yet, the Weatherill Government’s health cuts plan released on 4 February takes the scalpel to frontline health services and leaves the health bureaucracy untouched.


Rather than address burgeoning bureaucracy, Labor would rather close the Repat Hospital, downgrade Emergency Departments at the Noarlunga, Modbury and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals and renege on a commitment to maintain a full-service Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Flinders Medical Centre.


“The Weatherill Labor Government’s priorities are completely out of touch with those of the South Australian community,” Shadow Health Minister Stephen Wade said.


From time to time, Labor plays lip service to efficient and effective services.

On 29 October 2012, when SA Health employed 1,984 (FTE employees)[3], Labor Health Minister Hill reported that 52 of these positions would be cut.


However, less than two years later, the total number of bureaucrats employed by the Department had actually increased to 2175.[4] Instead of cutting 52 positions, the Government has added 191 FTEs.

[1] The health bureaucracy grew from 813 FTE positions in June 2005 to 2,175 FTE positions in June 2014. See: Annual reports of the Auditor-General for the years ending 30 June 2006 (p596) and 30 June 2014 (p846).

[2] The South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Response to the Transforming Health Discussion Paper, November 2004, p3.

[3] Hill, J. 29 October 2012. “Safe, Affordable, Quality Health Care,” media release.

[4] Government of South Australia. 2014. Report of the Auditor-General: Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2014, p846).