Murray Bridge hospital upgrade to start within months under new Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network

Work should start on the coming redevelopment of Murray Bridge's hospital within about three months, a regional health executive says.

State parliament's public works committee is expected to give final approval to the project tomorrow, paving the way for a construction contract to be let.

Once that was done, Wayne Champion said, "it should be relatively quick".

Work on the emergency department and sterile supplies department - which supplies operating theatres across the Mallee and Coorong as well as in Murray Bridge - would be completed within 12 to 18 months, he said.

While the transition would not be on the same scale as SA Health's move from the old to the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, he said, in many ways it would be more difficult because the Murray Bridge hospital would continue operating during the changeover.

Administrative staff will move into a nearby building previously used for accommodation while the works are ongoing.

The project will be a key focus for a new decision-making body within SA Health, the Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network, which began operating on July 1.

The network is intended to give Murraylands and Mallee residents a greater ability to decide what health services are most needed in their communities.

Its board, chaired by Mannum-based GP Peter Joyner, will set a strategic direction for all public health services in the region.

Murray Bridge Councillor Fred Toogood will also serve on the board alongside Elaine Ashworth, of Berri, Claudia Goldsmith, of Port Elliot, and Melanie Ottaway, of the Adelaide Hills.

Mr Champion, appointed as the network's chief executive officer, said the change would make little difference in an immediate sense.

"The same staff will provide the same service today as they did on Friday," he said.

But in the longer term it would be able to determine how best to use its annual budget to respond to local needs.

Over the coming months, it would start seeking guidance from both the public and local doctors, nurses and other staff.

Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said the state government had listened to regional South Australians who had said they wanted more control of their local health services.

But the state opposition's health spokesman, Chris Picton, characterised the changes as "nothing more than spin", based on the fact local health networks would still rely on staff in Adelaide for back-office functions such as human resources and IT.


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