Hospital capacity furore

MOUNT Gambier Hospital management has categorically rejected allegations an elderly patient was unable to access a bed yesterday afternoon because the facility was full.

The Border Watch was contacted late yesterday by a man – who did not want to be publicly named – who claimed an elderly family member had been denied a bed.

The family expressed disgust at the situation and yesterday called for answers given they believed the facility was taking patient transfers from metropolitan health centres at the expense of local

This claim coincides with a person claiming to be a staff member also contacting this newspaper yesterday and stating the medical workers were being pressured to do “double-shifts and overtime” because of workforce shortages.

These claims follow The Border Watch this week publishing claims by a key state medical workforce union that 10 more nurses are needed each week in the hospital’s medical wards.

Country Health SA regional director Jayne Downs rejected any allegations a patient was turned away yesterday and dismissed claims the facility had reached capacity.

“Any allegation that a patient has been turned away from the Mount Gambier District Health Service is completely false,” Ms Downs said.

“Any patient that requires urgent care is always seen immediately, while others are often able to be assessed, treated and discharged home as their presentation is not serious enough to require admission.”

She said patients who lived in other areas of the South East were transferred to the hospital closest to their home when appropriate.

“Our hospital staff work incredibly hard to see patients as soon as possible, however during periods of high numbers of presentations, there can be some delays,” Ms Downs said.

Ms Downs earlier this week also rejected claims more nurses needed to be employed in the medical wards and the new Royal Adelaide Hospital transfer was putting pressure on the hospital.

The SA Salaried Medical Officers Association – which represents doctors at the hospital – this week questioned whether the hospital should take any overflow from the Royal Adelaide Hospital transfer because of enduring workforce recruitment issues.

“During the new Royal Adelaide Hospital ramp down period there was no significant change to the number of patients transferred from Adelaide hospitals to Mount Gambier Hospital,” Ms Downs said.

She said typically up to 18 patients per month were transferred from Adelaide hospitals to Mount Gambier Hospital to receive ongoing care prior to their discharge home and these patients were residents of Mount Gambier or surrounding areas.

“The new Royal Adelaide Hospital is the flagship hospital for all South Australians, not just Adelaide residents, and every day at the new RAH a large number of country patients will be receiving world-class care in the new state-of-the-art facilities.”

At any given time around 17pc of patients in Adelaide hospitals are from country areas.

Regarding the call by the SA Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) for 10 additional nurses each week, Ms Downs said the hospital was appropriately staffed.

“We have more than 300 nurses caring for patients in Mount Gambier Hospital and while we understand the ANMF would like even more nurses, we believe we have the right number of nursing staff who provide high quality and safe care to the community.,” Ms Downs said.

“Each of our wards are staffed appropriately in line with the Nursing Midwifery Enterprise Agreement and while we don’t believe there is a shortfall of nurses, we will, as always, work with the ANMF to understand any concerns they may have.”