The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has been a pillar of the western suburbs of Adelaide since it was opened in 1954. Initially a maternity hospital to manage the huge western suburbs baby boom of the postwar years, in 1959 it expanded to a full-service hospital for the western suburbs. Today it is an acute-care teaching hospital that provides inpatient, outpatient, emergency and mental health services to the some 250,000 people of Adelaide's western suburbs.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, or the QE as it's affectionately known in the west, has always punched well above its weight as a small suburban hospital. It was South Australia's first accredited teaching hospital. It quickly developed a reputation for research and performed Australia's first successful kidney transplant in February 1964.
I've always been a strong advocate for the QEH. I love to visit the hospital to speak to the hundreds of hardworking staff, nurses, doctors, researchers and others who are at the frontline of health care in the west. I'm also proud and honoured to chair the advisory committee for one of the centres of research excellence, funded by the NHMRC and based at the QEH, and have a strong relationship with the clinicians and the workers there as well.
I've always stood up for the interests of the QEH and for the patients and residents of the western suburbs. I spoke out against the removal of cardiac, geriatric, oncology and palliative care services from the QEH two years ago. I was very pleased that the government then listened to the voices of the constituents of the western suburbs of Adelaide, who were desperate to retain those local services.
Last time federal Labor was in government we granted the western suburbs of Adelaide its first Medicare-funded MRI machine, located at the QEH. Before this important decision, residents of the western suburbs had to travel to Ashford, up to a 40-minute drive away from some parts of my electorate, or even to Morphett Vale, up to an hour's drive away.
The people who benefit most from having their services close to home, accessible and affordable are the most vulnerable members of our society. Low-income families, older Australians, the chronically ill and people with complex medical needs in the western suburbs suffered most from the lack of MRI services in the west. Because of Labor's grant of an MRI licence to the QEH, hundreds of people who needed scans for certain cancers, breast scans and scans for children could go to their own local hospital. However, the licence was only a partial licence. Many patients still have to go to the city, to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, or have to travel very long distances to get scans such as brain scans or spinal scans rebatable through Medicare.
In 2014, I wrote to the then Minister for Health, the member for Dickson, regarding several applications that the hospital had made to the department for a fully rebatable MRI. I did so again to Minister Hunt this year as many clinicians have repeatedly raised the issue of MRI access for the western suburbs with me, as have a number of residents of the western suburbs themselves.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is synonymous with health care in the west. It's the ideal place for a fully rebatable MRI machine to provide greater connectivity, access and continuity of care for patients in the western suburbs of Adelaide. It is beyond time for the residents of western Adelaide to have full and proper access to MRI services in their local community at their local hospital through a fully rebatable MRI machine.