Doc calls for hospital fix

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

One of the region’s most senior doctors has flagged serious concerns about worsening conditions at Margaret River Hospital.

Margaret River Medical Centre owner and hospital GP Shaun O’Rourke told the Times services had degraded since he first raised concerns three years ago when an air-conditioning fault led to cancelled services, which were never resolved.

Urgent, coherent action was needed to address a range of shortcomings before residents felt the bite, he said.

Downgrading was now a threat to Augusta Hospital too because of a similar air-conditioning fault.

Local conditions were even more challenged because of the region’s population boom with COVID-19 and bustling tourism, with presentations up about 10 per cent.

The hospital had become a halfway house for aged residents without homes, non-critical patients had been turned away, nurses were too few and were overworked, and the lack of surgical options seemed designed to push patients to the Busselton and Bunbury hospitals.

“It’s a bit soul-destroying for the doctors,” Dr O’Rourke said.

“You fix people up and move them off. You don’t have any continuity of care. I came to the country to be a country doctor.

“The only surgery we do now in Margaret River is GP work.”

The news comes as Perth’s hospital system struggles and after recent calls for an inquiry into the health system in Bunbury after revelations of alleged bungles.

Dr O’Rourke said workers were told there were expansion plans in the cards, but no details were ever offered. He was frustrated WA health bosses had allowed three years to pass without action. “There doesn’t seem to be any great impetus to change things,” he said. “They treat us like mushrooms.

“We need the theatre up and running, so people don’t have to travel, even if it is only 50km.”

The WA Country Health Service offered a statement in response to questions addressing Dr O’Rourke’s concerns and fobbed off some of those claims.

“The South West community should be assured that those requiring care through the emergency department at Margaret River Hospital will always receive it,” a spokeswoman said.

“No one is turned away from the ED. All shifts at the facility remain well staffed and WACHS routinely fills vacancies with nursing staff who are appropriately skilled.”

WACHS acknowledged the hospital was aging, and said $600,000 was invested in the site since 2018-19, but any major redevelopment was an issue for Treasury and the State Government “noting projects are funded on a priority basis”.

“Margaret River Hospital continues to deliver high-quality care to the local community,” the contact said.

Planning for population growth was routinely undertaken and the hospital continued “to meet its obligations under the WA Emergency Access Target despite an increase in presentations of lower acuity”.

WACHS declined to comment on specific plans for expanding the hospital and whether a master plan existed.

WACHS also declined to outline any five-year plan for the site moving forward or the reasons for lack of repairs to the broken air-conditioning or the efficiencies around transporting patients to Busselton and Bunbury.

Concerns about nurses experiencing difficulties securing contract work in Margaret River were denied.

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