Premier’s office fails on bid by Margaret River Surgery doctor Cathy Milligan on local hospital woes

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Margaret River Hospital.
Camera IconMargaret River Hospital. Credit: Warren Hately

Premier Mark McGowan has declined any personal undertaking in response to a plea from one of the region’s top doctors to get on with funding expansion of the town’s struggling hospital.

After Dr Cathy Milligan issued her plea in person at the November 20 community cabinet meeting in Margaret River — and afterwards telling the Times she was quietly buoyed Mr McGowan said he would look at the issue further — a response provided by the Premier’s office this week did little to address it.

It repeated past lines about funding for Bunbury Hospital’s future redevelopment, the excellent quality of healthcare already available, and more than $600,000 invested in local repairs since 2018.

This comes despite a slew of local doctors arguing the campus was increasingly failing to meet community expectations amid rampant population and visitor growth.

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In a personal letter to the Premier, Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson, and Capes MPs Jackie Jarvis and Jane Kelsbie provided to the Times, Dr Milligan reiterated her case for the Government to fast-track the business case for the hospital, which at present has no formal funding attached.

“This growing world-class tourist destination and beautiful region deserves a world-class hospital,” she said.

“Imagine how you can continue this health legacy into the future.”

Dr Milligan, who operates the Margaret River Surgery, pitched the region’s forecast population at 30,000 by 2030, but the facilities weren’t meeting demand now.

“It is potentially unsafe at times due to overcrowding,” Dr Milligan said.

“We see our respiratory patients outside, waiting patients are crowded and overflow outside, posing difficulty with oversight.

“There is overflow of patients into theatre recovery areas that are distant and physically difficult to observe. Pretty chilly outside too and backing ambulances a hazard.”

Dr Milligan also noted “inadequate” theatre facilities, and scoping equipment “were deemed too old and unsafe” and not replaced.

“These services have moved upstream to already over-subscribed sites, Bunbury and Busselton,” she said.

“Our patients must travel now, with impacts on the families and community.

“Our obstetric service has declined from 80 deliveries per year to 30. The woman must travel. We have over 200 women with Margaret River and surrounds postcodes that deliver a year – most elsewhere.”

Booked-up local clinics were also forced to refer patients to the emergency department which was far more costly for the health system than GP appointments.

A State Government spokesperson pointed the Times to the State Government’s “record $2.5 billion increase to health and mental health investment in the 2022-23 State Budget”.

“We continue to work with the Federal Government to look at ways to increase the number of GPs in WA,” the spokesperson said.

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