Mount Gambier hospital erects COVID-19 triage tent at emergency department ahead of border reopening

Patients presenting to the emergency department at the hospital will be tested for COVID-19 inside this tent first. (ABC South East SA: Leon Georgiou)

Patients entering Mount Gambier hospital's emergency department will be required to enter via a newly erected COVID-19 testing tent when South Australia's borders open on Tuesday. 

Medical staff will screen all patients entering the emergency department and where necessary administer a COVID-19 test to ensure everyone entering the hospital is negative. 

Visitors to the hospital and those with an appointment will still be able to use the hospital's main entrance but will also undergo screening.

Patients who test positive for COVID-19 and require hospitalisation will be taken directly to the hospital's new COVID-19 emergency ward, via an external entrance, ensuring the rest of the hospital remains COVID-free for as long as possible.

Limestone Coast executive director of medical services  Elaine Pretorius said the new measures aimed to ensure people who had COVID-19 were managed in a safe manner while also keeping other patients, hospital staff, and the wider community safe from an outbreak.

"But we do want to manage them in a safe way."

Dr Elaine Pretorius outside the external emergency department. (ABC South East SA: Leon Georgiou)

While the hospital will accept patients needing non-COVID-19-related medical attention even if they have the virus, patients presenting severe respiratory symptoms from COVID will still be transferred to Adelaide.

"If your symptoms are severe because of COVID disease, if you've got respiratory symptoms, a low oxygen level, some of the other symptoms of COVID that are quite severe, you will not be admitted in a regional hospital and will still be transferred to Adelaide," Dr Pretorius said. 

"Our clinicians will be making the distinction of what is an appropriate admission for a regional hospital … and all of the admissions in the Limestone Coast will occur at Mount Gambier hospital."

Last-minute plan, says opposition

Shadow Health Minister Chris Picton said it was now just days before the SA border and it appeared health officials were "scrambling" to put things in place.

Shadow Health Minister Chris Picton has raised concerns about the hospital's resources ahead of the border opening. (ABC News)

He said this new approach meant resources and training were needed at regional facilities.

"And we know that clearly, those facilities, those staff are not in place at the moment," Mr Picton said.

He said the government's planning document released details about COVID-19 care centres being established in regional areas.

"We're really calling on the government now to provide greater clarity for people in the South East and across regional South Australia in terms of exactly what the plan is going to be for their local area."

He said it appeared the plan was changing at the last minute.

"And that's left all of those local health services in regional South Australia scrambling now to try to address what the plan would be," Mr Picton said.

He said there had been reports health officials were "ringing around" trying to find a motel to house a medi-hotel.

COVID concerns

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell said he harboured concerns that there had not been enough planning for the arrival of COVID-19 into the region.

Mount Gambier Hospital is gearing up for potential COVID-19 cases when borders open. (ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

"I've been pushing this for months now that when you open the borders up our health facilities need to be able to cope – Mount Gambier is a very large regional centre," Mr Bell said.

He said it appeared resources and the focus had not been poured into the Mount Gambier hospital.

"We are going to get COVID-19 cases, there's no doubt about that," Mr Bell said.

He said he was pleased a greater focus was now being directed to Mount Gambier hospital given it was illogical to think all COVID-19 cases needing hospitalisation would be transferred to Adelaide.


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