Country Health system needs fixing

THE Country Health system must be improved, according to both a local general practitioner and the Australian Medical Association of South Australia (AMA SA).

AMA SA recently announced it will be campaigning for improved services, facilities and support for practitioners in all country areas.

The move has been welcomed by Nuriootpa Medical Centre general practitioner Dr Michael Hoopmann, who consults at Tanunda and Angaston hospitals.

He said there are many battles faced by local doctors, including outdated facilities, the winding down of services, such as obstetrics, and the lack of support for patients who are experiencing mental illness.

“I have been in the Barossa for 25 years and the bed numbers at the hospitals have halved,” he said.

“The nursing staff has really, significantly reduced and I really feel for them because, again,
it puts the pressure on the nurses, and then puts the pressure back on us.

“(Also, the community’s needs have changed) and around 70 per cent of our after midnight calls are for people with mental illness, which is quite striking, compared to what it was like when I first came up.”

Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said improving country health facilities is one of the Liberals’ major priorities ahead of next year’s state election.

“The maintenance backlog for country hospitals is reported to be in the order of $150 million,”
he said.

“The Weatherill Labor Government spends about $4 million a year on maintenance – at that rate it will take 38 years to meet the current backlog.

“If elected, we will urgently address highrisk repairs and maintenance at country hospitals, while at the same time come up with a long-term country capital works renewal strategy to address the broader maintenance backlog and plan responsibly for future development.”

The Bunyip also contacted Minister for Health Peter Malinauskas for comment, but his office redirected the enquiry to SA Health, which provided a response on behalf of a Country Health SA spokesperson.

They said all of Country Health SA’s hospitals, aged care facilities and community health sites across country regions in South Australia are staffed and equipped according to national
clinical guidelines.

“Each year, Country Health SA spends around $4 million on compliance and minor works, and around $2.5 million on biomedical equipment across its more than 60 hospitals and more than 20 aged care facilities,” they said.

“All of our hospitals have ongoing maintenance programs, which include regular checks and audits, as well as maintenance or replacement of items and assets, and we continue to prioritise funding towards urgent projects.”

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Growing up in Roseworthy and attending Kapunda High School, Laura joins The Bunyip in June, 2016 whilst completing the final year of a double degree in Journalism and International Relations at University of SA. This is Laura's first role as a Journalist following a stint at Gawler Council in the Communications Department. She will cover the news in the Playford and Mallala council regions. Outside of work, Laura enjoys anything health and well-being related, and can be regularly seen shopping for fresh, healthy produce at local markets.

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