Future extensions and upgrades to Adelaide’s rail network will be investigated under funding allocated in South Australia’s budget, while more beds have been pledged for two of the city’s hospitals. 

ABC News has been told $10 million will go towards the rail extension planning, with the cost split equally between the federal and state governments.

Part of the work is expected to look at what it would take to extend the existing rail lines beyond where they currently end.  

Land has already been secured for the Seaford line extension.(ABC News: Matthew Smith)

The planning works will examine upgrades to the southern end of the train line, including taking the Seaford line towards Aldinga.

The government has already secured a 60-metre-wide corridor of land from Quinliven Road to Aldinga Beach Road for the extension of that line.

In Adelaide’s north, the study will look at where the Gawler line could be extended to the Barossa, using the existing rail corridor.

ABC News has also been told the planning works could also investigate what would be required to extend services to Mount Barker.

Electrifying the train lines, which are already served by diesel trains, will also form a part of the project.

More beds announced for Adelaide hospitals

As record ambulance ramping besets South Australia’s embattled public health system, another 56 beds have been pledged for two of Adelaide’s hospitals — but they’re not expected until next year.

The state government’s drip-feed of pre-budget drops continued on Wednesday, with an announcement of 36 beds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and 20 at the Lyell McEwin.

More beds have been promised for two of Adelaide’s hospitals.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

A new patient record system, which the government said paramedics could use inside ambulances while in the act of transporting patients, will be introduced in a further bid to reduce ramping, which hit a new high last month.

Patients spent 4,773 hours on the ramp in May — easily the highest on record in SA, and more than 500 hours above the previous peak in November.

The May ramping figure came to light days after the health department was forced to delay almost all elective surgeries amid a code yellow, or “internal emergency”, in all metropolitan and regional public hospitals.

On Wednesday, 88 elective surgeries were cancelled, 237 SA Health staff were off sick with COVID-19, while 193 patients were in hospital with either influenza or COVID-19. 

The new hospital beds at the QEH and Lyell McEwin will cost $30 million and are expected to open next year, and will come on top of 100 additional beds scheduled for this year at the same sites.

“Capacity is one of our bigger causes of ramping,” said Tom Soulsby, from the Central Adelaide Local Health Network.

“Having extra beds within the system to deal with the, I assume, more patients that we’ll be seeing and admitting in this department is really helpful.”

The government said the $24 million electronic patient care record (EPCR) system would cut down on ramping by reducing paperwork while paramedics were in transit.

The budget will include funding for an electronic patient care record system.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

“When ambulance staff have a patient in the back of their ambulance, they’re filling out patient information in hard copy in paper form,” Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said.

“That of course means it takes some time for the ambulance officers and the paramedics to communicate to emergency department clinicians and nurses all of the patients’ information.

“The introduction of this new system will make it much quicker for the ambulances to discharge patients and transfer them to an emergency department, getting them into hospital care much quicker and much more seamlessly. This new system will integrate into the hospital’s electronic patient record system.”

New ambulance stations for Two Wells, Marion and Whyalla

Three new ambulance stations will be built at Two Wells, Marion and Whyalla at a combined cost of $24 million and open in 2026, the government has said.

It said existing stations in the latter two locations were already due for upgrades, but it had instead opted for “brand-new” replacements to provide “fit-for-purpose” facilities for paramedics.

David Speirs expressed scepticism about whether a new patient record system would cut ramping.(ABC News)

Opposition Leader David Speirs expressed scepticism about whether that measure, and the EPCR system, would lead to a reduction in hours lost to ramping.

“I can’t see how any of these things will reduce ramping, and patients are dying waiting for ambulances, and patients are dying on the ramp,” he said.

“Our hospitals are in crisis at the moment, and an electronic system and more bricks and mortar actually won’t make any difference.”

A service to keep patients who do not need hospital treatment or admission out of emergency departments has been earmarked for an extra $11 million in funding, the government said.

The Clinical Telephone Assessment (CTA) team of 15 clinicians assesses about 1,400 patients each month.

But the government said it currently only had capacity “to intervene in around a third of the cases that could potentially benefit from clinical telehealth assessment, advice and referral”.