Growing pains

Mt Barker’s promised new emergency department will be under pressure as soon as it opens and isn’t big enough to cater for the region’s growth, the head of a local GP service has warned.

The concern over the capacity of Mt Barker’s planned new emergency department is yet another indication of the long-standing failure of successive governments to properly plan for the region’s rapid growth.
The emergency department expansion was announced in the lead up to the 2019 Federal election after lobbying by local politicians.
But almost three years later the head of the organisation that has been providing doctors for the existing department, Kevin Wisdom-Hill, is warning the expansion won’t actually meet the ongoing needs of the community.
As has been the case with so many other projects in the Hills since the re-zoning of land around Mt Barker a decade ago, the Government of the day seems to be playing catch up.
The new emergency department is certainly a start in addressing the region’s growing health needs. But what the Hills really needs is a concrete, long-term and funded plan, not just for health but for a range of services – including public transport, roads, government services and local job creation.
Mr Wisdom-Hill says many other investments are needed to go with the new emergency department, including a new hospital, a priority care centre – which will help take pressure off of the emergency department – and more community services to help keep people out of hospital in the first place.
Other local leaders, including the Mayor of the Mt Barker Council, Ann Ferguson, are also calling for a full new hospital saying that is what the region needs to adequately cater for its growing health needs.
SA Health and the Health Minister say they’re aware of the issues in Mt Barker and are planning for its growth.
But we’re yet to see a solid funding commitment to back a long-term and comprehensive plan that will make a meaningful difference in years to come.
The problem is not the Government’s alone – a former Labor government gave the green light to the massive expansion of Mt Barker and then successive Labor Governments spent the next decade failing to adequately plan and provide for the growth that had been allowed.
But with an election coming up it’s essential that both sides of politics show they’ve been listening to the very real issues in the Hills and are willing to put their money where their mouths are.