Hospital staff pressure mounts

Mount Gambier Hospital is functioning without the services of 70 doctors, nurses and other staff, which Health Minister Chris Picton said had led to the closure of its dedicated COVID ward.

Independent Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell told State Parliament last week that local COVID patients were now being treated in Adelaide.

The Minister explained the need for such a treatment regime in the capital city as the absence of staff had recently triggered a Code Red staffing alert.

“We are now in a situation where the Mount Gambier Hospital staff have been doing an incredible job to try to manage with the number of COVID patients they have, but they are facing very significant staffing shortages that have been in place,” Minister Picton said.

“For instance, I am advised at the moment there are currently 37 full-time equivalent nursing positions that are vacant and a further 17 FTE vacancies of medical staffing.

“This is something we are stepping up the recruitment to make sure that we can fill those vacancies as soon as possible.

“I am advised that, with extensive recruitment under way, we are expecting by later this year to have addressed that situation in terms of that lack of staffing in place.

“Effectively, the hospital is operating with the shortage of approximately 70 FTE staff at the moment, which obviously has an impact upon patient care.

“In addition to that, there are currently a significant number of cases of COVID in the Limestone Coast, which is doubly affecting staffing shortages in the area as well.

“The furloughed staff numbers have gone from nine to 16 just overnight, which is causing significant pressure.

“I’m advised today (June 1) they are now in Code Red, which is lower than the Code White level, but it shows they are at capacity in the Mount Gambier Hospital at the moment.”

Mr Picton explained that he was in constant contact with the Health Department and had spoken with Mr Bell and Limestone Coast Regional Health Network board chairman Grant King.

“I am keen to do everything that we possibly can to address the situation both in the short term and the long term,” he said.

“In the short term, we have sent down to Mount Gambier to assist a number of nursing staff to address the severe shortages of staff they have at the moment.

“I am advised that some senior nurses have gone down to assist in that situation at the moment.

“In the long term, we are building up the services in Mount Gambier Hospital, expanding the emergency department, expanding mental health care, expanding drug rehabilitation, expanding drug detox services to make sure there is more staff and a greater variety of services at the hospital.

“Principally, we need to address those workforce shortages that are causing these issues, acknowledge the difficulties faced by the constituents of the Member for Mount Gambier at the moment, particularly those people who have had to come to Adelaide for treatment.

“It is not something we want to have happen, and obviously it is something that impacts then on the pressure of Adelaide hospitals, which are already under dramatic pressure at the moment as well.

“We want to address those staff shortages as soon as possible.”

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