Staff shortages force Mount Gambier Hospital to send COVID patients to Adelaide 

30 May 2022

Staffing shortages have forced Mount Gambier Hospital to temporarily close its COVID ward to any more admissions, with new COVID-positive patients requiring inpatient treatment being transferred to the Flinders Medical Centre and the Women's and Children's Hospital.

The staffing crisis in regional areas such as Mount Gambier has prompted ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM to renew calls for the State Government to commit to employing this year’s entire cohort of graduating nurses and midwives and also put in place incentives to attract and retain staff in regional areas.

Ms Dabars said Mount Gambier’s decision to transfer COVID patients to Adelaide “goes to show the strain and demand on the staff at the moment really is untenable’’.

“Sadly, this has been a long time coming and a failure of successive governments to deal with the issue of workforce planning,’’ Ms Dabars told ABC South-East radio. 

“For Mount Gambier Hospital to close beds, simply because it does not have enough staff to provide services, is an entirely avoidable tragedy that should never have happened. 

“But the sad reality is that the hospital is not alone. We have had months’ worth of other organisations closing services, particularly midwifery services.

“We have to turn it around because regional communities absolutely do need and deserve appropriate and well-resourced and supported health services.’’

Ms Dabars said all the research shows that it is much better for people's health and welfare if they can be cared for closer to home because they can have better access to support structures such as family and friends.

“The current Government need to put out an announcement as urgently as possible, telling all of those graduating nurses and midwives that they will have a job if they want it here in South Australia,’’ she said. 

“And for those who are completing their Transition to Professional Practice programmes, that they would also have permanent and ongoing employment. 

“We implore this new Government to do that immediately. 

“We are also urging them to put in place attraction and retention allowances to those country areas. When hospitals are working so short staffed, when people are being asked to work so many double shifts, it is not encouraging people to stay, not encouraging people to enter. 

“We need to turn it around from a downward spiral, from people so fatigued and looking to exit, to an upward cycle where people are feeling supported, feeling valued and being resourced and really wanting to stay.’’