Emergency health care in Murray Bridge remains one of the most divisive issues facing voters in Hammond in the lead-up to Saturday’s election.
At The Standard’s election forum last Tuesday, registered nurse Jane Gregurke said "a lot of people" had been upset by SA Best candidate Kelly Gladigau's proposal for a bulk-billing doctor to be based at the Murray Bridge hospital.
At present, GPs from Bridge Clinic attend whenever they are needed, but patients are charged a fee.
How would Ms Gladigau, a nurse at another Murray Bridge clinic, mend fences with the city's other health professionals if she were elected?
Ms Gladigau said it was nothing personal, but that patients should not be charged for emergency treatment under any circumstances.
"People aren't going to the clinic because they can't afford to get care," she said.
She commended Liberal MP Adrian Pederick for helping to create Leila’s lifeline, a hotline for patients with concerns about the care they are being given, following the death of Strathalbyn girl Leila Baartse-Harkin.
But she questioned why he had not supported another of the state coroner’s recommendations: that all hospital emergency departments have a doctor available on-site at all times.
Mr Pederick said it was a matter of funding, and questioned how SA Best would pay for its promise.
The Liberals have pledged to support a $7 million upgrade to the hospital’s emergency department; that pledge, like all Labor and Liberal promises, will be scrutinised by a Parliamentary Budget Advisory Service.
Mr Pederick said he believed Murray Bridge had only one credentialed emergency doctor who did not work at Bridge Clinic anyway.
"If Kelly can put up credentialed doctors from her surgery, they'll be welcomed at the hospital," he said.
He also said it was important that emergency patients be charged a small amount for after-hours treatment: "if they didn't, people would turn to it as a GP service and think they can turn up to emergency with a minor ailment".
Labor candidate Mat O'Brien said he had spoken with SA Country Health and agreed that the current system in Murray Bridge was repeated in every country town for a reason.
Both Ms Gladigau and Mr Pederick received applause for their positions.
But a Murray Valley Standard poll in October, when Ms Gladigau announced her policy, found 80 per cent of respondents sided with her.
More than 250 people have signed a petition she launched at the time.