Story by Lechelle Earl
Testing delays at Mount Gambier’s COVID testing station are “completely unacceptable” according to Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell.
The showgrounds site has been overrun with vehicles following changes to screening requirements for interstate arrivals.
“It’s basic common sense. If the Transition Committee are going to change the entry requirements into South Australia, they have to increase the testing capacity,” Mr Bell said.
“Our city should not be disadvantaged because we are five hours away from Adelaide.”
Mr Bell welcomed advice by SA Health that a surge team was being sent to support the station’s resources.
“However, these resources are overdue. People are telling me they’re waiting three to four hours to be tested – it’s just way too long,” he said.
“We have had 20 months to deal with the ebbs and flows of COVID.
“We should be better at this by now.
“South Australia could and should lead the way for testing and result turnaround time and we can only do this by proper planning, resourcing and communication.”
With less than three weeks until Christmas, Mr Bell said both local and interstate travellers wanted some surety about their holiday plans.
“I have been advised by SA Health the testing station will remain open over the Christmas period, including Christmas day,” he said.
“I understand waiting in line is frustrating but please be patient and understanding with the SA Pathology staff … who are doing an amazing job under tough circumstances, he said.”
A SA Pathology spokesperson acknowledged there had been an increase in presentations for COVID-19 tests at the showgrounds.
“We will continue to monitor the situation, keep the community updated with any changes and adjust operating hours at our clinics according to demand, where possible,” the spokesperson said.
“Thank you to the community for getting tested and your patience while our hard-working staff work as safely and as quickly as they can to collect samples and organise testing.
“We have alternative testing locations available in the South East region, as well as on the way to Adelaide.
“You can find other testing clinics at sahealth.sa.gov.au/covidtesting.”
Local Labor MLC Clare Scriven has also raised the issue in parliament, highlighting the need for more testing facilities to be made available.
Ms Scriven said when borders opened two exposure sites were listed in Kingston followed by another six exposure sites in Robe.
“Despite this, the government has not established semi-permanent testing sites in either Kingston or Robe,” she said.
“The closest testing available is an hour’s drive away in Millicent.
“It took until Wednesday afternoon for a pop-up testing site to be made available in Robe and even then it was only open … for two hours.”
Ms Scriven then asked Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade, given the huge number of tourists who visit the Robe district over the Christmas period, what the plans for COVID testing facilities would be in Robe or Kingston going forward.
“SA Pathology will continue to distribute across the state the pathology resources it needs to be deployed to specific locations as specific needs emerge,” Minister Wade said.
“What I would say is that it is not feasible, it is not a good deployment of pathology resources, high-quality resources from SA Pathology, to have small clinics in every single community in South Australia.
“That is why SA Pathology continues to run a regional network of established clinics, in spite of the fact the Labor Party in 2014, I think it was (2013 perhaps it was) had a report which they took months to dispute sorry, to reject the proposal in their own report they were going to close down regional clinics.
“This government has continued to maintain a good network of regional clinics under SA Pathology and they will be supported with other.”
Ms Scriven also queried whether there were any plans to prioritise testing facilities for areas of very high tourism over the Christmas period.
“This government has a high level of confidence in SA Pathology doing its job, and that will mean they will continue to deploy testing resources in accordance with the risk,” Minister Wade said.
Meanwhile, details on how hospitals and health services will manage COVID-19 in metropolitan and regional areas, and how existing health system capacity will expand to deliver non-COVID acute care in parallel, have been publicly released.
Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick said with borders now open and South Australia safely managing COVID-19 in the state, the State Government was engaging with all elements of the health sector to ensure South Australians impacted by COVID-19 can receive the care they need in the right settings.
“Positive COVID-19 patients requiring acute care will be cared for at three dedicated public hospitals. The Royal Adelaide Hospital remains the designated hospital for positive adult patients, with the Women’s and Children Hospital for children who test positive, and the Flinders Medical Centre for COVID positive pregnant women and their babies,” she said
COVID-19 Regional Response Governance Group Chair Wayne Champion said while regional hospitals were not designated COVID treating hospitals, selected regional hospitals will act as ‘COVID accepting hospitals’.
“These regional COVID accepting hospitals in the Riverland, Coober Pedy, Port Lincoln, Roxby Downs, Port Augusta, Whyalla, Port Pirie, Kangaroo Island, Murray Bridge, and Mount Gambier, will accept and stabilise acutely unwell COVID regional patients and assist the transfer to one of the three designated metropolitan hospitals,” he said.
“As patient numbers increase, larger regional COVID accepting hospitals may commence providing inpatient care for some positive patients.
“Regional COVID Care Centres being established in Mount Gambier and Port Augusta will provide assessment, referral and treatment for people with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, to help reduce the demand on Emergency Departments.”