Hospital hits limit

There were three consecutive so-called “Code White” days at Mount Gambier Hospital last week when the facility was at its capacity.

Due to staff shortages, the unprecedented status began on Wednesday and remained in force until Friday.

Health Minister Chris Picton said the staff absences were related to COVID.

Mr Picton has asked the Limestone Coast Local Health Network for a report on the impact on their health services and patients and how they are working to manage this.

He said the new Labor State Government was committed to a $24m redevelopment of Mount Gambier Hospital including an upgraded emergency department.

According to public statements from the union representing ambulance officers, the situation at Mount Gambier was concerning given the presence of COVID in the community as well as the start of the annual influenza season.

The South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association has also expressed its dissatisfaction with the staffing shortages.

The Limestone Coast Local Health Network issued the following statement in response to queries from The SE Voice.

“Last week, Mount Gambier Hospital experienced an increase in the number of furloughed staff due to COVID, which resulted in increased pressure on the health system,” the spokesperson said.

“A range of measures were put in place to ease the load and respond to demand.

“Our staff were able to continue to assess and provide care to patients according to their clinical needs and prioritise life-threatening cases requiring emergency medical care.

“During this period, the Emergency Department continued to be open and staff were available to assess patients and manage beds accordingly.

“When it’s particularly busy for our hospitals, the community has an important role to play in easing the demand on hospitals during peak periods.

“We need to keep our EDs free for people who need them.

“We want the community to be aware of alternative options if their medical condition is not serious enough to require emergency medical care.

“For minor illness or injury, people are encouraged to visit their local GP, pharmacist, after-hours GP clinic, or virtual care service.

“Of course, anyone that is seriously ill with a medical emergency or life-threatening situation should always call triple zero (000) or present at an ED as soon as possible

“If you are unsure if your condition requires emergency medical intervention, you can seek advice through Health Direct, 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 022 222.”

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