Xenophon makes a South East stop

XENOPHON IN THE REGION: Independent South Australian Senate candidate Nick Xenophon has put a call out for more general practitioners in the region to reduce emergency department pressure. Picture: Tyler Redway

Charlotte Varcoe

THE South East has been neglected with those living in the region being treated as “second class citizens”, according to Independent South Australian Senate candidate Nick Xenophon.

Mr Xenophon toured the region recently, meeting with industry leaders and health care professionals to discuss issues.

Speaking with The Border Watch, Mr Xenophon said one of the key issues in the South East was healthcare and the ongoing shortage of general practitioners.

He said the shortage of doctors had a cascading effect with “double the effort” needed to get general practitioners into smaller communities.

His comments came just days after the Mount Gambier and District Hospital called its first Code White for three days straight due to a lack of staff because of Covid-19.

Mr Xenophon said the Code White was an indication of the challenges posed by Covid and there was “no magic bullet” to fixing the issue and expressed concerns leading into the flu season.

“This is worrying to me because if these smaller communities don’t have a general practitioner, that is when there is pressure put onto the emergency departments,” Mr Xenophon said.

“Covid is also a big challenge as a lot of people recovering from the virus are getting long-Covid which poses huge challenges to our health system in terms of chronic problems.

“The situation with Covid is worse in the regions because of the doctor shortages and we will be looking at solutions to get general practitioners into town because if there is not proper health care in the community, the communities then die.”

The Senate candidate also spoke on aged care issues, stating a pay increase of 25 per cent would encourage workers to engage with the industry.

Speaking in response to the recent sanction of Boandik Lodge Aged Care due to the facility’s Covid outbreak response, Mr Xenophon said the recent Royal Commission into aged care facilities provided recommendations which he claimed had been ignored.

“These recommendations are not being dealt with and the workers in the industry do a fantastic job for the rough entry wage of $22 per hour,” ,” he said.

“For what they do, a 25 per cent pay rise is essential from my point of view.”

Mr Xenophon also discussed the issues surrounding exportation of timber products, stating the South East has real potential for thousands of jobs within the industry.

“We are exporting millions of cubic tonnes of untreated timber where it is getting processed overseas and turned into laminated timber before being returned here,” Mr Xenophon said.

“The potential for this in the South East is limitless.”

He said alongside exporting wood products, jobs were also getting exported overseas and that he believed the value-adding needed to be done on Australian shores.

“I don’t think we have taken manufacturing seriously,” Mr Xenophon said.

“Each year, we are not only exporting millions of tonnes of untreated timber but also thousands of jobs.”