by S Lowe 5THEFM newsonline wattlerangenow
Just a little over fifty years ago, Millicent and surrounding district communities recognized the need for a bigger hospital and through their efforts and commitment, the Millicent Hospital was built. The community continued to upgrade and improve services since the original build, with support groups and auxiliaries fundraising for equipment not funded by the government. The celebration last weekend June 28th 2014, was an opportunity to celebrate the hospital building, the people who make up the hospital providing care to all in need, and the commitment of a community who made it happen. But not far from the surface were concerns about the reduction in services and the future of the hospital.
“Is it a celebration or are we mourning the death of our hospital?” was posed to me by one person attending the event.”
Country Health SA press release prior to Saturday’s event listed Millicent Hospital’s achievements from the time of its opening in 1964 to 2004. (Forty years)
Millicent Hospital over the years
1962 – A tender from Mr AW Baulderstone, of Adelaide, for the construction of the new hospital with a contract price of £207,423 was accepted.
1963 – Millicent Hospital’s foundation stone was laid by Director-General of Medical Services Dr JW Rollinson.
1964 – Millicent and District Hospital and Health Service officially opened by Chief Secretary Sir Alexander Lyell McEwin MLC.
1964 – The first patient of the new hospital was Mr GH Bird, of Tantonoola.
1964 – The first baby born at Millicent Hospital was Bronwyn Venetia, daughter of Mr and Mrs JF Leigh.
1966 – Cr Gladys V Smith became the first lady to be appointed to the hospital board.
1970 – First meals on wheels distributed from the Millicent Hospital by the Lion’s Club.
1977 – 89 – Mrs Val Stewart serves as Director of Nursing for 12 years.
1995 – Sheoak Lodge Nursing Home opened as a 30-bed aged care residential facility
2000 – New operating theatre technology, including an anaesthetic machine, laparascopic camera system, a second steris machine, a microwave endometrial ablation machine, flexible cystoscopes with camera and monitor technology installed at Millicent Hospital.
2004 – Sheoak Lodge extended to a 60-bed facility.
The bibliography of achievements stopped at 2004.
Millicent Hospital 2004 – 2014
Since the removal of the Board from the Millicent Hospital, and the handover of hospital and services to the government, there have been serious concerns raised by the community, about the future of health care in the region.
We asked CHSA for information about the hospital’s achievements from 2004 to 2014 and they replied: – ‘the focus of the celebrations on Saturday is about the early days, not recent times.’
We were also told by CHSA; ‘collecting information about the years from 2004 to 2014, would take time,’ and was not available at the time of posting this report.
Their response to our request to share CHSA’s vision for the future of the Millicent Hospital, ‘ the celebration is about the early days, not the future.’
It is on public record that many services have been removed from the Millicent Hospital during the years 2004 – 2014: – including gastroenterology, chemotherapy, dialysis, physiotherapy, mental health reductions, and a general watering down of services due to reduced staff.
Services have been removed from the hospital with little or no community knowledge; the most recent being obstetric services.
With the closure of all obstetric services between Murray Bridge and Mt Gambier – a distance of 360K’s – women from Kingston, Beachport, Robe, Southend, Millicent and surrounding districts must travel to Mt Gambier to birth.
The proposed removal of obstetric services in 2013 resulted in a Public Meeting attended by 650 concerned people. CHSA removed obstetric services from the Millicent Hospital in the face of intense public outcry against the move.
Hon Rob Lucas MLC said, ” You have stoically taken so many losses of services over the years but cutting obstetrics was one step too far.”
There has been pressure on the Medical Clinic Millicent doctors to sign a ‘one-size-fits-all’ contract developed by Country Health SA (CHSA). Negotiations by the doctors for a contract which better suits the community, have frequently stalled over the years.
Member for MacKillop Mitch Williams said “Today is a celebration. A celebration of community. This hospital is here because of the huge effort put in by the community.”
“Country communities continue to be self-sufficient and also continue to be abused by city-centric attitudes.”
Mr Williams predicted and has maintained for over 10 years, the removal of services from the hospital would make the recruitment of doctors to the area very difficult.
The local GP’s have continually spoken out about the negative impact the downgrading of hospital services has had, and continues to have on their ability to attract doctors to the area.
Chairman of the last Hospital Board Don Gilbertson said, “Today is a celebration. I’ve been involved since it was built, I’ve seen it grow, and it’s changed over the years. It is a landmark in this town. The community built this hospital; it is here because of the effort put in by the community. It has cared for the community; we’ve witnessed advances and changes in the way we do things.”
“But to see the services lost over recent years, services that we worked so hard to get, it’s hard. Yes I’m upset about that.”
Mr John Andre recalled attending the opening of the Hospital 50 years ago. He paid tribute to the community’s contribution in the establishment of the hospital. The day held particular meaning to him, his parents made a significant contribution to the hospital. He also acknowledge the many people from the community who had done the same.
“The hospital was built due to a community of people who saw the need and got the job done,” he said.
Cr Drew said:- “We know there are challenges going forward and we know there will be an ongoing fight to ensure that quality health services continue to be provided at Millicent in this hospital. Health care is becoming increasingly expensive and there are moves to increase efficiency by centralizing health provision and administration. We know that centralization has its problems. As a community we need to be watchful and keep pressure on the Department of Health to ensure our services are not diluted further. The squeaky door needs and gets the oil.”