Barossa residents can “look forward to” the election promised business case for a new Barossa hospital being available in early 2020, according to Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Mr Stephen Wade.
Mr Wade toured the Tanunda Hospital last Wednesday for about an hour, speaking to staff and visiting the clinical areas and community health building.
He was accompanied by Ms Rebecca Graham, recently appointed CEO of the Barossa Hills Fleurieu Local Health Network (BHFLHN), the organisation tasked with undertaking the two staged business case, which consists of a service plan, followed by the formal business case.
While Mr Wade declined to tell The Leader anything further than to expect the business case early next year, when asked about his assessment of the Tanunda hospital he said it was obvious it was an older facility that had needed several refreshes over the years.
“Obviously this is an older facility and there has been some upgrading in recent times,” he said.
Ageing infrastructure and workforce issues were key points discussed by hospital staff during the Minister’s tour.
Director of Nursing and Midwifery for Tanunda and Angaston, Ms Trudi Morrissey said staff remained cautiously optimistic that the current business case would result in commitment to a new Barossa hospital, after years of talk and a previous business case in 2011 that led to no action.
“There’s been more attention around it than in the past, which is positive,” she said.
“There’s been more open discussion.”
Mr Wade said there had been “real interest” in the business case, and that the BHFLHN had made it a priority.
“The business case will be fascinating, it’s not just Tanunda and Angaston, it’s sitting in a region very close to Gawler, not that far from the city, so it’s very dynamic issues that the team’s going to work on,” he said.
“Certainly the Barossa region is a growing region, there’s a lot of through traffic. With the major highways, we need to think about the service needs for the region going forward and to what extent the capital fabric supports that.”
Ms Graham said the BHFLHN would begin consultations with stakeholders, including the community, GPs, staff, universities and other partners next month as part of the service plan, which will also assess population needs and what services are currently used.
“We want to get the updated service planning information as soon as possible, so that we can inform the appropriate planning cycle which Government and the Department of Health uses,” she said.
While in the Barossa Mr Wade also met with doctors, nurses and other health professionals to consult on the Rural Medical Workforce Plan, which he believes importantly coincides with discussions around a Barossa hospital.
“It’s actually quite fortuitous really that the Rural Medical Workforce conversation is going on now because they’re asking similar questions, what are the services?” he said.
Lifestyle expectations and out of hours support for health professionals also came up as areas to be addressed in the future recruiting and maintaining of medical practitioners in the region.
This was the first time Mr Wade has toured the Tanunda Hospital, and has only visited Angaston once before, where he did not do a full tour.
He admitted it was important for the State Health Minister to get out and see facilities “in situ”.
“You just don’t really understand it until you’ve been there,” he said.