Having easily accessible all hours health care is something many of us expect in our community, so it’s not surprising that a 24-hour emergency department heads a wish list of service improvements for Mt Barker district residents.
The town’s hospital currently does not have a doctor on site for after hours emergencies.
Instead, patients must be assessed by nurses at the hospital who can call in a GP to see them, or be referred on to another hospital.
For many locals that has meant a lengthy trip to often crowded emergency departments at city hospitals such as the Royal Adelaide, Women’s and Children’s or Flinders.
Many of us would like the security and peace of mind of knowing that there is a round-the-clock service at our own hospital when a child wakes in the middle of the night with a raging fever, a family member breaks a bone or an elderly relative needs care.
The addition in recent years of the After Hours GP Care service at the Summit Health Centre goes some way to meeting that demand with GP appointments available after hours on weeknights, weekends and public holidays.
But not everyone is aware of the service and it is not available beyond certain hours.
Despite the community’s strong wish for a local 24-hour emergency department, the reality is that Mt Barker, even with its surrounding catchment of Hills towns, is not a metropolitan centre.
Its population, while set to double in coming decades, is unlikely to ever grow big enough to support such a facility and the necessary qualified staff to run it.
It is even more unlikely given SA’s health budget is spiralling out of control and the State Government is planning to cut services and close other emergency facilities in the suburbs to rein in costs.
But Summit Health’s proposal for a doctor on-site overnight at the Mt Barker hospital presents a realistic compromise.
Local doctors who already provide on-call services could share the load, giving residents better access to healthcare after hours.
The idea is certainly worthy of further investigation by Health SA.