RENAL dialysis patients at Mount Gambier Hospital have welcomed the State Government’s $2.1m commitment to upgrading the substandard unit, arguing it was long overdue.
This sentiment flowed across the cluttered and cramped unit during a brief visit by Health Minister Peter Malinauskas yesterday morning.
The redevelopment of the facility has now been cemented following a bipartisan commitment from both the Labor and Liberal parties ahead of the state election.
Long-term patient Brian Pitson – who has been receiving dialysis for two years – was among fed-up patients who spoke to Mr Malinauskas and aired their grievances about the unit.
“It is about bloody time a commitment was made – it is ridiculous how small it is,” Mr Pitson told The Border Watch.
The Mount Gambier resident said the lack privacy, simple amenities and even comfortable chairs were among the myriad of problems plaguing the facility.
“There is no privacy – you always have to try and look the other way given there is no room to put up screens,” Mr Pitson explained.
“The chairs in the unit are also the worst I have ever sat in.
“We do not even have decent chairs despite having to sit in them for more than 15 hours per week.”
In fact, he claimed it took months for the hospital to fix a faulty blind on the window.
“On a bright day, we could not even pull the blind down,” Mr Pitson explained.
Renal patient Joy Pittas – who travels from Millicent three times a week for treatment – also praised the announcement.
“It is incredible to hear, but it is not before time,” Ms Pittas said.
Speaking to media at the unit yesterday, Mr Malinauskas said he had worked “incredibly hard” with his party to ensure the upgrade became a reality.
He said the Limestone Coast community also deserved credit for the outcome following its strong advocacy.
“This has been a long time coming and a lot of people are very passionate about it, not least of which the patients and staff who work in the facility,” he said.
“The extraordinary fundraising efforts by the Limestone Coast community, combined with the government’s announcement, will ensure we get a good outcome in the long-term for dialysis patients,” Mr Malinauskas said.
He said the announcement was a commitment of funding.
“One of the responsibilities of those people in government is not to go round making promises unless we are going to deliver – this is a funded commitment,” the minister said.
“We hope the new build will start in the early part of next financial year.”
Legislative Council Labor candidate Clare Scriven described the funding outcome as a fantastic win for the Limestone Coast.
“This investment will mean we will have more local patients seen locally as well as a much improved environment for patients and dedicated staff,” Ms Scriven said.
Penny Richardson – who is the outgoing presiding member of the Mount Gambier Health Advisory Council (HAC) – said the outcome demonstrated the power of the community.
She said it was the result of the HAC applying pressure on the minister.
“It works, when we work together,” Ms Richardson said at the media briefing.
However, Mount Gambier community resident Deb Paschke downplayed the HAC’s role.
She said the outcome was the result of the passionate advocacy of community residents, in particular Maureen Klintberg and hospital staff.
“It was Maureen’s strong advocacy and working with hospital staff that this wonderful outcome could be achieved,” Ms Paschke said.