The Kangaroo Island hospital service stand-off is back on.
After two years of calm on the medical scene, local GPs have rejected a revised agreement with Country Health SA.
During 2009 and 2010, the KI Medical Clinic fought for better conditions for its six doctors covering emergency shifts at the Kangaroo Island Health Service hospital in Kingscote, as well as birthing services and running their practice.
They secured a compromise from CHSA, which agreed to provide a locum service for one week each month, which would now be withdrawn under the new agreement.
The doctors claim the State Government will be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year more in medical services on Kangaroo Island “because of bungled negotiations”.
The doctors say they are not prepared to put the lives of their patients at risk by working “dangerously long hours”, as required by the new agreement.
Dr Mark Raines said doctors simply wanted a continuation of the current arrangements, which involved providing 24-hour, 7-day a week obstetric and anaesthetic services and round-the-clock emergency services for 40 weeks a year.
Dr Raines said that if local doctors did not agree to fund the locum themselves, the Health Department would prevent them from treating public patients in the local hospital - and instead employ new doctors.
“There is also the threat of cutting funds to sustain anaesthetic and obstetric on-call services for the Kangaroo Island community and visitors.
“We’re left scratching our heads trying to work out their logic. Where are they going to find the extra money and extra doctors to staff the local hospital with a health budget that is already struggling?
“Is this the start of Country Health SA’s efforts to remove locum support from other country hospitals? Without locum support, it will become more difficult to attract GPs to the bush and sustain the GPs, like us who are already there.
“Providing new doctors on Kangaroo Island will cost more than providing locum relief once a month,” Dr Raines said.