A public hospital in country South Australia has been forced to rely upon a private donor to fix a badly leaking roof after the State Government ignored repeated requests to replace it.
David Senior from Kingston Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in the state’s south-east said the roof had been a problem for some time.
“Several years ago I saw water coming through some of the light fittings, which was bad enough, so we kicked up a fuss and got that fixed at the time,” Dr Senior said.
“It’s been dripping through the ceilings and dripping onto patient’s beds.
“We’ve had to move some of the elderly patients from the nursing home in the past because of water coming through and it was just getting worse and worse and the Government wasn’t doing anything about replacing it.”
Country Health SA chief executive officer Maree Geraghty said at no time did the roof compromise patient care or allow water to drip on patients.
“I haven’t heard that any patients have been subject to having leaking roofs,” she said.
“I would very much doubt that [patient’s beds were dripped upon] …we continue to offer deliver high quality care.”
Donor paid $900,000 for new roof
What is not in contention, however, is that a private donor paid to put a new roof on a public hospital.
Dr Senior said the cost to the private donor was about $900,000 and the Government should have picked up the bill.
“Something so basic as providing the roof over the top to keep the weather off. I mean, that’s ridiculous. That’s something the Government should be doing,” he said.
Country Health SA described the new privately-funded roof as “fantastic”.
“When local people actually offer to give money to their local hospitals and support their private hospitals, this is fantastic and this private donor offered to do that,” Ms Geraghty said.
“At Kingston Hospital a patient really wanted to assist the hospital and offered to do this amazing fantastic donation to fix the roof.”
Opposition Health spokesman Stephen Wade said the use of private generosity to fix something as fundamental as a roof was unfair on country people.
“We are spending hundreds of millions in the city to basically reconstruct the health system. We also need to look to maintain safety and amenity in country hospitals,” Mr Wade said.
“Staying warm and dry is a fundamental requirement in a hospital.
“I’d be astonished if we’ve found a way to deliver healthcare without a roof.”
The Opposition also claimed private money had been used to fix the plumbing at Loxton hospital and air-conditioning at the Waikerie hospital in the Riverland.
Ms Geraghty told the ABC more than $100 million had been invested in country hospitals over the past five years, included at Waikerie.
“Today I’m really happy to announce that we are investing $34,000 towards that partnership of improving facilities at Waikerie,” she said.
A long history of private benefactors
South Australia has a long history of private benefactors giving to public institutions — everything from hospitals to art galleries.
The question is whether a new roof on a hospital is the most appropriate use of such generosity.
Dr Senior argued the best measure of that is whether the roof improved the health outcomes of country people.
“There are a lot of other things that would make life a lot better and a lot more comfortable for the people in small country towns … a roof isn’t one of them,” he said.
Again, Country Health SA disagreed.
“It’s improved the fabric of the facility in which we can deliver health care,” Ms Geraghty said.
“It’s very difficult to separate those things out as we look at the delivery of health care in those hospitals.”
As for the identity of the generous Kingston roof donor, he wants to remain anonymous.