Shadow Minister for Regional Health Martin Aldridge MLC has called on the State Government to come clean on plans to close hospitals in regional WA in the event of critical staff shortages.

Mr Aldridge said concerns were raised by residents at the public hospital in Three Springs and other regional communities about the future of their hospitals.

“The WA Country Health Service (WACHS) has been meeting with regional councils and hospital staff to inform them of plans should a COVID-19 outbreak occur in the regions.

“There appears to be no continuity capacity to maintain hospital operations should staff become sick or deemed to be close contacts of confirmed COVID cases.”

Mr Aldridge said there was concern closures would become permanent and called on the Government to guarantee hospitals would remain open.

“Closing down regional hospitals – even temporarily – is a totally unacceptable outcome from a State Government swimming in cash,” Mr Aldridge said.

“It shows they have not used the past two years to prepare our regional hospitals properly, and their failure to address critical staff shortages in regional health have left our hospitals understaffed and unprepared for a COVID-19 outbreak.

“History shows that when services are removed from regional communities they rarely come back, so we need to do everything we can to keep our regional hospitals open.”

Mr Aldridge said hospital closures would have a major impact on regional communities.

“This will leave regional communities without access to emergency medical assistance and COVID-19 testing when they need it the most,” he said.

“In many areas, aged care is also connected to the hospital, and there is uncertainty about what will happen to these residents if hospitals are closed and residents forced to be moved.”

Mr Aldridge said he was concerned by the lack of transparency from the Labor Government around contingency planning and preparedness of our public hospitals.

“Instead of announcing which hospitals are under the chopping block and giving communities advance warning the Labor Government have been sneaky and underhanded.

“Notifying hospital staff – who are bound by confidentiality not to speak with media or Members of Parliament – but keeping closures quiet from the wider community is not the sign of an open, transparent and accountable Government.”

Mr Aldridge said the Minister for Health needed to immediately reassure the community that public hospitals will not close and they will continue providing care to the community.

“I urge the Minister for Health and the Premier to ensure that the easy option to close regional hospitals does not occur, and that WACHS is well resourced and stands ready to provide services in coming weeks and months.”