Mount Gambier as ‘greater risk’ of Covid-19 outbreak once borders open

Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell

Charlotte Varcoe

MEMBER for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has requested assurance once again regarding the preparedness of Mount Gambier health facilities in the wake of a Covid-19 outbreak despite labelling the region as being at a “greater risk” for positive cases.

The question – posed to South Australian Premier Steven Marshall during parliament this week – comes following the recent release of the state’s Covid-ready plan.

Mr Marshall announced earlier this week the South Australian-Victorian borders will reopen on November 23 – once the state reaches 80 per cent of double vaccination rate for those 12-years-old and over.

Due to the level of resources needed to cope with the Delta strain, those requiring hospitalisation will be transported to Adelaide with a vast majority attending the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Covid positive pregnant women are planned to attend the Flinders Medical Centre while young Covid-positive patients are expected to attend the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Mr Bell said he understood the anxiety around reopening borders but said the borders reopening was a positive step forward.

“Our community has endured 19 months of restrictions and lockdowns and hardship,” Mr Bell said.

“It’s time to reopen safely and put the cross-border bubble situation behind us so people can get on with their everyday lives.”

Mr Marshall said he was aware of anxiousness within the community following the Covid outbreaks in other jurisdictions in terms of hospitality.

“That is why we have waited to lift those border restrictions to a point where we have a good vaccination level here in South Australia,” Mr Marshall said.

“We also know that the hospitalisation rate is massively diminishing as people become more vaccinated and the drugs and treatment for those who are hospitalised and are Covid positive means there are fewer and fewer people ending up in ICU (Intensive Care Units).”

Shadow minister for health Chris Picton hit back at Mr Marshall’s comments, stating the health system within South Australia was already in crisis.

“There is no plan in place for a Covid outbreak, there are no additional resources in the South East on how Covid will be managed and this is a matter where there will be a lot of cross border travel,” Mr Picton said.

“Staffing capacity at Mount Gambier and other regional hospitals are already stretched and there will be a heavy reliance on transport for the Royal Flying Doctors Service for those who do need hospitalisation.”

President of the Australian Medical Association South Australia Dr Michelle Atchison echoed Mr Picton’s comments, stating general practitioners within Mount Gambier had not received communication from health services in regards to whether the region was Covid ready.

“General practitioners need to be included with any planning that happens for rural regional areas,” Dr Atchison said.

“This is a pretty big concern and we know from other states that community Covid cases are dealt with in general practices.”