Health fix needed

Work on building a 16-bed emergency department at the Mt Barker hospital is expected to begin later this year.

It beggars belief that the Hills region has not seen an increase in the number of ambulance crews since the 1990s despite a ballooning population in Mt Barker.
Mt Barker is tipped to become SA’s second largest city within 20 years.
Yet – as its road and public transport system has been widely labelled as inadequate to cope with the region’s predicted growth – its healthcare system also seems to be frustratingly lagging.
Common sense says that when you give the green light to the kind of massive expansion that is taking place in Mt Barker, some level of infrastructure and service planning should go hand-in-hand.
But once again, the State Government is playing catch-up and it is the residents who suffer.
The problem is not isolated to the Hills and, after months of industrial disputes across SA, 74 new ambulance officers were recently promised.
But none of them are destined for the Hills.
No doubt these resources are going where they are most needed … but that only begs the question: if Hills crews are so stretched that paramedics on the ground are warning it has become dangerous for patients, how dire must the situation be in those priority parts of the State?
With almost daily reports of ambulance ramping across our major hospitals, it’s clear the issue is system-wide, with major investment needed not only to better staff the ambulance service, but also to prevent the kind of emergency department backlogs being experienced at the moment.
If the system is already this stretched – not only in the Hills, but across the board – how will it cope when our borders re-open and Covid-19 potentially adds further pressure?
Local paramedics have been warning of the danger associated with shortages in the Hills for months, and last year two men died in separate instances after waiting more than 30 minutes for an ambulance to reach them at Strathalbyn.
What’s not known – because of patient confidentiality – is how many other patient outcomes have been compromised because of unacceptable waiting times.
With a State election only six months away, it’s time for both the State Government – and the Opposition which rezoned Mt Barker in the first place – to take the lead and commit to putting real plans in place to safely and effectively cater for the region’s predicted growth, before – not after – it happens.