Colin Barnett says he wishes someone had brought his attention to the limited clinical services to be offered at the privatised Midland Health Campus when the $5 billion contract went through Cabinet.
The Premier yesterday told Parliament he became "conscious of the sensitivity" of St John of God Health Care not providing sterilisation, abortions and contraception when the issue became public. He estimated that was 12 to 18 months ago, but the 23-year contract was won in June 2012, when St John's inability to conduct those "restricted procedures" on ethical grounds was the subject of public debate.
The issue also flared in the mid-1990s when St John was on the short list to run Joondalup hospital. Health Minister Kim Hames said he left the services out of the contract to let St John bid in competition with Ramsay Health Care. That decision was never taken to Cabinet, only the final contract, and Mr Barnett said it had "all sorts of details".
"I would have wished at the time that (the issue) was brought to my attention but it wasn't, it went through," he said.
Dr Hames, who a day earlier said St John's bid was $1.5 billion lower than Ramsay's, yesterday clarified that the figure referred to how much cheaper it was compared with the Government running the hospital. On Tuesday, the Health Department told of "significant access issues" over the construction of a separate clinic to provide the services because St John was "unable to share services and infrastructure with a provider of services that is contrary to Catholic health care provision".
Outside Parliament, Dr Hames would not guarantee that taxpayers would not end up funding the separate facility instead of a private bidder, which the Government has been unable to attract in eight months. Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said Mr Barnett failed to pay attention at Cabinet, despite chairing it. "Mr Barnett, instead of being a commentator on these issues, should take responsibility," he said.
Jane Ralls, former president of the Doctors Reform Council of WA, said it was international standard practice to provide contraception advice where obstetric services were provided.