After-hours health concerns

Ellie HoneyboneMidwest Times

Kalbarri residents are claiming limited access to after hours and emergency health care in the town is endangering lives and may deter tourists over the Easter holidays.

A town meeting was held last week to discuss the issue and an online petition calling for better health care has been signed by 153 people, one week after it was shared throughout the community.

Kalbarri resident Nicole Kielman started the petition and organised the meeting after she took friends and family members to the clinic after hours in recent months, only to be sent to Geraldton for treatment.

“In September last year my mother broke her ribs and instead of receiving care in Kalbarri we had to drive to Geraldton and wait in the hospital for five hours,” she said.

“A friend had a bad fall in late January at 10pm and we were aware that the Kalbarri Health Centre closed at 9.30pm.

“Luckily we got there as the nurses were leaving but with no doctor in town at the time to stitch the wound we were told to find our own way to Geraldton in the middle of the night.”

According to WA County Health Service chief operating officer Margaret Denton the WA Country Health Service provides a 24/7 health service to the Kalbarri community.

“The Kalbarri Health Centre is staffed daily from 8.00am to 9.30pm by a number of registered nurses and support service staff who are rostered across various shifts,” she said.

“Outside of these hours, a registered nurse is always on-call and available to attend emergencies at the health centre.

“When staffing allows and during periods of high demand the centre endeavours to open for 24-hour periods.”

Mrs Kielman is concerned that a lack of assistance after hours could end in a fatality or risk the health of tourists during the upcoming Easter holidays.

“I reached out to local politicians in a bid for answers and was contacted by (Member for Moore) Shane Love who said he was aware of the doctor situation,” she said.

“We called the meeting as he said he would be in town on the 7th and it was a perfect opportunity to let everybody know what is going on.

“We have had a fantastic response from people who have also been sharing their own stories and experiences with the health care in Kalbarri.

“I understand that the situation can’t change overnight but it would be good to get some sort of improvements in the future.”

WACHS does not employ general practitioners at the Kalbarri Health Service, however an agreement with Kalbarri GP practice provides out-of-hours on-call services to the health centre for medical assistance as required.

Margaret Denton said WACHS acknowledged the importance of providing health services to the community in Kalbarri.

“This is a high priority for the health service, and recruitment efforts for additional registered nurses are continuing,” she said.

Mrs Kielman said the meeting and petition was not a reflection of staff at medical centre or doctors.

“They do a wonderful job and we appreciate what they do,” she said.

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