Despite a $92.5 million upgrade, it appears the brand new Kingaroy hospital has lost its shine, with both staff and patients reporting a plethora of issues.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited Kingaroy last month to officially open the hospital, but locals have an array of complaints regarding staff shortages, lack of services and structural problems within the new building.
Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington said while the community appreciated the funding for the new building, there are still numerous problems affecting the level of care being offered to patients.
"There is no doubt that this new building is of vital importance to the health and wellbeing of the people of the South Burnett," she said.
"It is a beautiful new building and my community deserves this investment.
"However, I think it is important to highlight that while we have the shiny new hospital, it is not a guarantee that we have shiny new services."
One of the major issues that has come to light since the completion of the upgrades is the leaks in parts of the hospital during several rain events this year.
"We have a hospital that has leaked since it was opened," Ms Frecklington said.
"The first leak, after just 37mm of rain, damaged the brand new CT scanner and closed down 55 per cent of the beds for months.
"It leaked again in November and again early this year."
Another major problem facing many regional health services, including the Kingaroy hospital, is the inability to hire sufficient staff, forcing nurses and doctors to work extensive hours.
"There is also no doubt that Kingaroy hospital is understaffed," Ms Frecklington said.
"Everyone knows that it's the staff who ultimately deliver our health services, but there are too many short-staffed shifts, resulting in stressed and overworked doctors and nurses."
Ms Frecklington also said that despite the region having the highest suicide rate in the state, there has been no increase in mental health services or specific mental health beds.
One of the nurses from the Kingaroy Hospital expressed her concerns for the staff in her unit, particularly the graduate nurses who she said were not used to the high pressure environment of an understaffed rural hospital.
"Every hospital in Queensland Health is short staffed; this is not specifically a Kingaroy issue, it's a statewide issue," she said.
"We've lost staff because they didn't want to have the COVID vaccination, and we've lost some good staff who are just frustrated with not being able to provide the care that they want to provide patients.
"So they go and they find jobs in doctor's surgeries or other industries because they're disheartened and burnt out.
"God help the poor grad nurses that are first year out and are just being hammered. I have seen multiple grad nurses who are not getting meal breaks because the workload is so challenging, and they're breaking down into tears.
"I think nursing isn't what they think it's going to be like; they get thrown in at the deep end and it just overwhelms them."
The nurse also said that the safety of staff was often at risk, as there is no after hours security at the hospital and they are generally having to care for patients with psychiatric disorders.
Kingaroy resident Erin Milne and her family have first-hand experience with the services at the hospital, in particular her 19-year-old daughter, who has suffered from a chronic pain condition for over a decade.
Ms Milne and her daughter Kyla started a petition, which was backed by Ms Frecklington, for a persistent and chronic pain clinic for South Burnett residents, after years of having to travel for appointments.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D'Ath responded to the petition last month, saying that pain management services were not currently provided by Darling Downs Health, but patients may be referred by their GP to a specialist at either the Robina hospital or the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.
"As a regional health service in relatively close proximity to Brisbane, there are a range of highly specialised services Darling Downs Health does not offer that are publicly available at larger facilities," Ms D'Ath said.
"I can advise Darling Downs Health is currently reviewing options that may be available to provide some pain management services from Toowoomba Hospital for consumers within the Darling Downs region.
"Many factors must be considered when commencing a new service, of which an appropriately trained, skilled and sustainable workforce is one.
"Darling Downs Health would need to ensure any service established in Toowoomba could provide consistent and safe care to our consumers."
Both Ms Milne and her son have also recently broken bones and required care at the hospital, which she says was lacking due to both staffing and structural issues.
"My son broke his foot two weeks ago, so I had to take him up to the hospital on a Monday night," she said.
"We got there at 5:30 and there's no radiologists after five o'clock at night, so we had to come back the following morning and get an x-ray for him.
"And I recently fell down some stairs and broke my hip, so I'm on crutches and for someone who isn't fully able, it's a very, very badly designed hospital where the access is terrible.
"Even to get from the car park through to emergency, it's a long way and it zig-zags all over the place.
"But we can never fault the staff, the poor things are running around like chickens with their heads cut off and I think they've got both hands tied behind their backs a lot of the time."
Ms Milne said many locals are questioning the cost of the upgrade and believe that services have actually worsened since the opening of the new hospital, but are starting to get fed up with the constant setbacks.
"We all should have excellent access to health care and we do not have that here," she said,
"I think they've got to do a hell of a lot better."
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