Citizens’ agenda: We need better emergency health care in Murray Bridge
The candidates for Hammond at the 2022 state election respond to voters' concerns about health services.
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In times of mental health crisis, Nicole has not always found the help she has needed in Murray Bridge.
She, her partner and their kids moved from Salisbury a couple of years ago.
The open space and laid-back lifestyle suited her family, she said – she has children on the autism spectrum, and she needs mental health support from time to time.
But a lack of specialist mental health services in the region has left her without many options at the times she has most needed them.
She described going by ambulance to the Murray Bridge hospital and being put in a room with just a couch, where she was told either to stay until she felt safe to go home, or transfer to a hospital in Adelaide where she could stay until she felt safe to go home.
“(In the northern suburbs) there were neighbourhood centres, drop-in parent centres, lots of places you could go and talk to a social worker,” she said.
“There was always someone there who, if you were in crisis, you could go in, take your kids and talk to someone.
“We need more preventative measures.
“It shouldn’t have to get to the point where the only options for someone in crisis are hospitalisation or medication.”
Nicole is not the only local voter questioning whether our health services are meeting locals’ needs.
Respondents to the recent citizens’ agenda survey by Murray Bridge News raised issues with everything from ambulance staffing levels, to front line workers’ pay, to the lack of specialist services outside Adelaide.
One said they had been unable to get an ambulance at 5.45pm on a Friday and, having driven to the Murray Bridge hospital instead, had initially been turned away.
Another said they had been waiting more than three years for a knee operation.
The relationship between private GP clinics and the Murray Bridge hospital was also a popular topic, just like in 2018.
“For a significant service to be outsourced … on a fee-for-service basis, unless pensioner or admitted, is unacceptable,” one respondent said.
Health care is a complex issue, but we tried to get an idea about what each of the candidates for Hammond thought.
If elected, how will you improve the Murraylands’ hospital, ambulance and mental health services? And would you review the arrangement under which private GPs staff Murray Bridge’s public emergency department?
Tim White (Greens)
During these years of the COVID pandemic it has become even more apparent, the lack of mental health support in the community.
The Greens, for years, have recognised a lack of mental health support in the community and have consistently argued in parliament for greater focus on the provision of mental health services.
We seek to have more services based in community settings which are accessible and well-funded.
The Greens' commitment for Hammond electorate is to fund more mental health services, to support those dealing with mental health challenges.
By increasing mental health support in community-based clinics, we can alleviate the pressures on local hospitals and ambulance services.
The Greens believe this reflects not only sound fiscal management but a sensible way of dealing with the increasing demands on health services across all areas of provision.
Tonya Scott (One Nation)
It’s no exaggeration to say our health system is in crisis.
One Nation will prioritise technology solutions to more efficiently manage hospital and acute care beds, and focus on providing more resources – funding, staff and equipment – in regional areas.
I’m happy to review arrangements at the local emergency department, with a view to ensuring the community’s needs are met.
Ensuring good health in the country means thinking outside the box and developing flexible arrangements.
Airlie Keen (independent)
Respondents to my Ask Hammond survey identified healthcare as their number one priority.
Our healthcare workforce, who have been on the front line during COVID-19, deserve our sincere gratitude.
I will lobby to ensure our local health services have the equipment and resources needed to provide services across the broad range of health needs, including for mental health, chronic illness and disabilities.
I will also seek a review of the model and fee structure for the after-hours doctor service, acknowledging there are many considerations, given the complexity of our health system.
In Strathalbyn and Mannum, there are no 24-seven emergency paramedics at those ambulance stations and that is a matter I have highlighted, including through a submission to the Legislative Review Committee’s inquiry into SA ambulance resourcing.
The provision of healthcare and emergency health services is a key platform and I will work towards delivering better health services right across Hammond.
John Illingworth (National)
I am committed to structural change to the way regional health services are deployed.
I propose the establishment of 20 regional health hubs that would develop partnerships between general practices, regional hospitals and pharmacies to build a viable health workforce.
The Nationals recently announced a scheme to eliminate doctors’ and nurse practitioners’ HELP debt in return for working in a regional area.
I believe that health, particularly mental health, should be local.
That’s why we have announced we would increase the number of regional community rehabilitation services from the current one, based in Whyalla, to one in every regional local health network.
I also believe health professionals practising in the regions must have the same access to professional development as their city counterparts.
I want increased staffing to resource the chemotherapy suite at the hospital, which could be a resource from Blanchetown to Keith, and increases in ambulances and staffing.
Belinda Owens (Labor)
Murray Bridge News has sought comment from Ms Owens.
Cameron Lock (Family First)
In order for our health care system to be more efficient and assist as many individuals as possible, we need a full review of the services in Hammond.
I would like to see an increase in specialist local health care capabilities and move away from the reliance on hospitals to deal with such areas as mental health, which is an area that has increased dramatically over the last two years.
I’m particularly interested in a well resourced ambulance service with easy access to paramedics 24-seven for regional areas.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all volunteers for their wonderful service to their community.
The main premise for any review is to see whether there are better and more efficient ways of dealing with an issue.
If that means private GPs staff the emergency department to achieve better care, with no out-of-pocket expense to the patient, then that seems feasible.
Adrian Pederick (Liberal)
In January the Marshall Liberal government signed a landmark agreement with regional doctors.
The agreement will see the government invest an estimated $188 million over two years to help attract and retain GP services in regional South Australia and ensure the continuity of high quality rural hospital services.
The agreement is supported by the Rural Support Service, Rural Doctors Association and the Australian Medical Association South Australia.
The Marshall Liberal Government is hiring 125 extra ambulance officers.
An intensive community mental health team is based at Murray Bridge; youth mental health services for people aged 16-24 and older persons’ mental health services for people aged 65+ are also available.
Acute inpatient mental health services are provided at the Rural and Remote Mental Health Service, based at Glenside Health Service Campus.
I delivered a new $7 million emergency department at the Murray Bridge Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital and I encourage more locally based doctors to obtain emergency department accreditation.
Meet the candidates for Hammond
Murray Bridge News will host a public forum with the candidates for Hammond at the Bridgeport Hotel on the evening of Wednesday, March 16.
Book your free ticket: www.eventbrite.com.au.
Note: Murray Bridge News has chosen not to publish Nicole’s last name, or a photo of her face, at her request.
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