SafeWork SA investigates reports of mould, asbestos and bug infestation at Adelaide's Pregnancy Advisory Centre
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SafeWork SA investigates reports of mould, asbestos and bug infestation at Adelaide's Pregnancy Advisory Centre

May 22, 2023

Reports of mould, asbestos, structural faults and bug infestations at the Pregnancy Advisory Centre in Adelaide's west have prompted an investigation by South Australia's work safety watchdog.

Staff at the Woodville centre called in representatives from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and the SA Salaried Medical Officers Association (SASMOA) earlier this week for urgent safety inspections.

SASMOA senior industrial officer, Bernadette Mulholland, said the century-old building no longer serviced the needs of patients or staff.

She said as well as containing mould, asbestos and structural faults, the building was also prone to bug infestations, its roof leaked, its windows couldn't open and its air-conditioning system no longer worked.

"It was incredibly frustrating and quite distressing to see the state of that building," she said.

"Someone will be hurt. I mean, these are obvious flaws in the accommodation and the build.

"These are some vulnerable women needing these services and it's really important that the government steps up and directs the department and the local health network to find new accommodation that will service and function appropriately."

SafeWork SA inspectors have also been to the Belmore Terrace building in recent days and are now conducting their own inquiry, which was prompted by the twin union audits.

Acting Premier Susan Close said very legitimate concerns had been raised about conditions at the centre.

"It is very likely that the service itself will be moved out for a period of time while the building is being fixed up," she said.

The Australian Medical Association SA obstetrician and gynaecologist representative, Dr Brian Peat, said staff at the Pregnancy Advisory Centre were frustrated by a lack of building maintenance at the site.

"There's been neglect of the infrastructure for a long time," he said.

"The service has been there just quietly off to one side.

"There's been no attempt to really refurbish it or fix it up."

Safety concerns about the centre's then-ageing operating theatre prompted surgical services to shift to the nearby Queen Elizabeth Hospital four years ago.

Dr Peat said all pregnancy services could have been relocated at that time.

"If the building wasn't sound for surgical services probably even at that point, they could have recognised that the building wasn't going to be satisfactory for any services," he said.

A Central Adelaide Local Health Network spokesperson said SA Health was working with the Department of Human Services, which owns the building, to do the maintenance work needed on the centre.

"Until we are advised on next steps by DHS, we are proactively looking into alternative accommodation options if relocation is required on a short- or long-term basis," they said.

"This includes identifying any potential areas nearby or in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital."

Ms Close said the Pregnancy Advisory Centre would likely move out of the Woodville building while it is repaired.

She said the service would be accommodated elsewhere during that period.

"The tradespeople are in at the moment looking at the work that needs to be done," she said.

"It is certainly something that needs to be fixed."

Surgical procedures linked to the pregnancy centre are set to be relocated to a new space inside the $314 million clinical building under construction at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is set to open next year.

Dr Peat said it was possible the Pregnancy Advisory Centre's consulting services would also shift to the hospital once the development was complete.

"We have discussed in the past with the Department of Health moving the whole centre to the new Women's and Children's Hospital," he said.

"I suppose in some ways that's still an aspiration … but I think what's being offered at the Queen Elizabeth is pretty good and I think the PAC would be very happy there continuing to provide its current service."

SA Health describes the Pregnancy Advisory Centre as a "pro-choice health service for women facing an unplanned pregnancy".

As well as providing medical and surgical abortions, the centre offers counselling, contraceptive services, and sexual health education.