Pressure is building on the South Australian Government to re-open a sleep laboratory at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, with a petition receiving more than 2,000 signatures of support in the past two weeks.
- Sleep organisations are pushing the SA Government to re-open sleep lab at RAH
- A petition in support has received more than 2,000 signatures in less than a week
- Health Minister blames the former Labor government for the lack of space at the RAH
Sleep organisations argue that sleep services are essential in a modern hospital, with the Sleep Health Foundation behind the petition that claims one in three Australians suffer from respiratory illnesses and nearly one in 10 Australians with sleep disorders.
The pre-existing sleep laboratory did not get moved over in the shift to the new Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH), with hospital managers calling on all sleep services to move to Adelaide’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).
Central Adelaide Local Health Network chief executive Jenny Richter said a number of options were still being considered for sleep services and no decision had been made yet.
“Ensuring patients receive safe, timely and appropriate care for their condition within an affordability context will be paramount to any decision about the location,” she said.
She said that a number of patients undertook sleep studies in their own home, while being closely monitored remotely by hospital staff.
Outpatient elective sleep services and inpatient acute services are also provided at both the RAH and the QEH, as well as overnight elective sleep services at the QEH.
The State Government has recorded that the average waiting time for outpatients with a sleep disorder at the Royal Adelaide Hospital is 1.8 years (as at March 31, 2018), while the average waiting time for those at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is 1.6 years.
AMA state president, Associate Professor William Tam, warns moving sleep services away from the RAH would be an inferior option. (ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)
AMA calls on Government to ‘wake up’
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is among those to warn that a shift of all services to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital would be an inferior option.
“Most of the patients that we look after have chronic health problems and sleep disorders are certainly very common in this group of patients,” AMA state president William Tam told the ABC.
“Sleep medicine is an important component of any modern hospital and is certainly essential in the flagship hospital in our state.
“There was a sleep laboratory at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital; not to have one at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital would be a grave mistake.”
Dr Tam said an on-site sleep lab was necessary for certain sub-groups of patients, such as those who have suffered stroke as well as spinal care patients.
He said without the service at the RAH, patients would only be able to receive the required treatment at the QEH, which was already at capacity for sleep services.
He also said it would be critical for training and accreditation purposes, with a lack of sleep services threatening the collapse of training accreditation at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
“This is a plea to the Government to please wake up and listen to the concerns of patients, clinicians and the community,” he said.
Sleep studies are often used to help people suffering from sleep apnoea. (Getty Images: Tetra Images)
‘Just an unfathomable decision’
Australasian Sleep Association president Peter Eastwood has described the decision to potentially move sleep services away from the RAH as “unfathomable”.
“It’s almost unconscionable in this day and age that you would have a major teaching hospital in any state of Australia that doesn’t have a sleep laboratory,” Professor Eastwood told the ABC.
“The sleep laboratory is important for both training sleep physicians and training respiratory physicians and also for training neurology trainees.
“But most importantly it’s essential for patients to be able to come in to a public hospital and have a sleep study done.”
He said sleep-related health issues affected a large percentage of the population and it was still a mystery to him as to why the services would be moved.
“[Studies have] shown that up to 22 per cent of the Australian population have a sleep disorder, including about 8 per cent who have got moderate-to-severe sleep apnoea,” he said.
He said the Federal Government was currently putting more resources into sleep-related health issues which could be linked to cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, depression and obesity.
“It is a first-world, state-of-the-art hospital (RAH), it really is a spectacular hospital that the Government has put lots of money into making something quite special and it is unthinkable that such a facility would not have an on-site sleep laboratory,” he said.
‘More than just an employment issue’
The South Australia Salaried Medical Officers Association (SASMOA) has thrown its support behind the petition and called on the State Government to act.
SASMOA senior industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland implored the State Government to act. (ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)
SASMOA industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland said it was the view of clinicians that this sleep lab was “absolutely an essential clinical resource” at the RAH.
“There’s a number of community groups that we have received correspondence from, there are a number of universities … many people across Australia have been writing in to demonstrate their support or the absolute need for clinicians to have this sleep laboratory at the Royal Adelaide Hospital,” she said.
She said she implored the State Government to take action following the support of the petition.
“This is broader than an employment issue, it’s something that does require the eyes of the Government and in particular the health minister to come in and view,” she said.
“This is certainly a community issue, it’s a policy issue for Government to provide some attention to and to demonstrate that they have some understanding.”
In a statement to the ABC, Health Minister Stephen Wade blamed the former Labor government regarding the ongoing issue.
“Labor built the new Royal Adelaide Hospital with no space for sleep labs,” Mr Wade said.
“This is another example of how Labor messed up South Australia’s health system.”