A FURTHER three regional emergency departments have been temporarily closed due to the coronavirus crisis, bringing the number to nine.
Barmera Health Service, Karoonda and Districts' Memorial Hospital and Tailem Bend District Hospital, have also had their health departments shut down, due to proximity with aged care facilities.
The state opposition has questioned why these sites were closed rather than remaining opening with clear barriers established between aged care and emergency, "as many other country hospitals have introduced".
In these latest closures, residents in Karoonda will have to travel 67 kilometres to get to the Murray Bridge emergency department for treatment.
To date there has been no announcement of additional funding, services or resources for the surrounding hospitals that now need to manage the additional demand from these nine communities - or ambulance services forced to transport patients much greater distances.
There has been no explanation as to why these hospitals could not stay open with clear barriers established between aged care and emergency, as many other country hospitals have introduced.
Opposition spokesperson for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton said it was "devastating" for nine communities to lose these facilities at this time.
"Karoonda residents requiring immediate treatment now need to make it another 50 minutes to Murray Bridge," he said.
"Many hospitals have established barriers to protect aged care from emergency, there's no reason outlined why that couldn't happen in these nine hospitals.
"We all want to do what we can to prepare for COVID-19 - but closing emergency departments will make it harder for people to access treatment."
Labor says the government is yet to rule out an additional round of closures that would further delay country people from accessing care.
EMERGENCY departments in six regional hospitals will close for the time being as Health SA begins to make plans for how to deal with a potential COVID-19 outbreak in these regions.
The departments at Gumeracha, Strathalbyn, Kapunda, Eudunda and Mount Pleasant closed late last week, while Penola was added to the list today, with all co-located near aged care facilities.
The Barossa Hills Fleurieu Local Health Network released a statement saying the closure was temporary.
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"It is critical we protect the most vulnerable in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic and this necessary measure ensures the elderly with co-morbidities or low immunity are further safeguarded," the statement said.
Patients in need of accident and emergency services are instead told to attend Gawler Health Services, Tanunda War Memorial Hospital, Angaston District Hospital, Modbury Hospital or Mount Barker District Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.
Members of the public needing to access accident and emergency services in in the Barossa Hills Fleurieu region can assess Gawler Health Service, Tanunda War Memorial Hospital, Angaston District Hospital, Modbury Hospital or Mount Barker District Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.
The Limestone Coast Local Health Network said patients presenting to Penola Hospttal would still be seen and assessed by nursing staff and transferred to Naracoorte or Mount Gambier Hospital via SAAS or MedSTAR.
Patients with COVID-19 symptoms are urged to contact their local GPs to arrange testing and to self-isolate while waiting.
Rural Doctors of SA president Peter Rischbeith said while the decision to protect the aged care facilities was understandable, he was still disappointed at the lack of consultation.
"Patients may have to travel further to get help, and it also puts pressure on the receiving hospitals that are still open," he said.
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