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Labor clash with country doctors shows disregard for country South Australians

The Weatherill Government’s stoush with Naracoorte doctors demonstrates Labor’s disregard for the health needs of country South Australians and places pregnant women in the district at heightened risk.

At a time when State Labor argues that clinical standards are driving its health cuts plan in the city, it is failing to uphold clinical standards in country South Australia.

“The Weatherill Government is refusing to staff the Naracoorte Hospital in accord with its own minimum maternity standards - mandatory standards that apply across the State,” said Shadow Health Minister Stephen Wade.

“The Weatherill Government needs to explain why it thinks women in country South Australia are only entitled to a second class service.”

The State Liberals have renewed their call on the Minister to intervene to resolve the dispute.

“For many years country communities have struggled to attract and retain GPs to service their health needs,” said Member for MacKillop Mitch Williams.

“The lack of support from Country Health SA to uphold mandated standards only undermines the confidence of GPs to consider a career in rural medicine.

“We need the Minister to intervene to ensure that country residents are no longer treated as second class citizens.”

Initially, the Minister refused to comment on what he said was a contract dispute.

Then he flip flopped to join the bureaucrats in attacking the doctors of Naracoorte, threatening to permanently bring in new doctors if he doesn’t get his way.

Now that the Minister has involved himself, we call on him to ensure that Country Health SA gets back to the table to negotiate with the Naracoorte doctors and that funding for services is sufficient to meet clinical standards.

The current conflict between Country Health SA and Kincraig Medical Centre is only one of many disputes between this government and the people of country South Australia.

Country Health SA has indicated it is not willing to have significant variations from the standard contracts for health services – one size fits all is not appropriate and is driving toward the lowest common denominator.

The contract lapsed on 31 August 2015 and has not been renewed.

Local practitioners have been barred from providing services to the Hospital.

The Opposition understands that the approximate cost for one solitary locum doctor per day is $2000.

In 21 days since the lock-out, the “drive-in drive-out” single locum has cost an estimated $42,000, compared when three to four local doctors would have cost $11,340 for emergency, obstetric and anaesthetic on call.

About 180 babies are delivered at Naracoorte Hospital each year

Naracoorte is the only obstetrics service between Mount Gambier and Murray Bridge. Pregnant women face being diverted to Mt Gambier (over 100 kilometres away) to give birth. The concern is for emergency situations where every second counts and doctors available and qualified in Naracoorte have been locked out

There are also fears that Mount Gambier will not be able to cope with Naracoorte’s overflow.

The Kincraig Medical Centre is willing and able to immediately recommence full services at a dramatically reduced cost by removing the need to compensate visiting doctors for travel and accommodation expenses. This would enable full quality services to resume immediately, and provide a significant cost saving for CHSA. This has been rejected by CHSA.