By HARRY CLARKE
IN AN irony described by locals as “ludicrous”, medical staff in the rural Queensland border town of Mungindi have been deemed by the government to be non-essential workers during the pandemic, resulting in the town hospital having to significantly reduce its services.
Six long term aged care residents of the Mungindi Multi Purpose Health Services facility, on the Queensland side of town, have been uprooted and forced to relocate to hospitals hundreds of kilometres away in Roma, St George and Moree in New South Wales.
Doctors appointments, inpatient services and Meals on Wheels have been suspended, as the bulk of local medical staff who live on the larger NSW side of town are banned from entering Queensland.
The hospital is still open for emergencies. NSW patients requiring emergency treatment can only enter Queensland by ambulance.
In a notice from Queensland Health provided to residents by local opposition MP Ann Leahy, the Mungindi community has been told its health service has been reduced because medical staff aren’t allowed to cross the border.
“Given the border directions which include increasingly strict control measures, it has become extremely challenging to maintain current health services in Mungindi,” the notice said.
“Unfortunately, there is a lack of available agency staff or staff members within the Hospital and Health Service that can be redeployed, and very limited options to accommodate any additional staff members.
“No staff members will be endorsed as a specialist or essential worker under the Chief Health Officer’s Border Restrictions Direction (No. 37), except where provision is made in writing.”
Ms Leahy told the Caller that the government needed to ensure coronavirus testing and vaccination services are established on the southern side of town as a matter of urgency.
The hard border closure between Queensland and New South Wales has essentially cut Mungindi in half.
While southerners now can’t access the hospital, Queensland residents north of the border are strictly blocked off from the local grocery store, post office and primary school.
Unlike previous border closures, residents can’t obtain permits to go interstate on a case-by-case basis to access general services.
Mungindi resident Ian Howse said most people in the community were bewildered by the bureaucracy.
“We don’t want to whinge, we just want everyone to be treated as a community,” Mr Howse said.
“We understand the need to prevent the spread. But we are a community of 500 people and we’re not being looked after. Now the nurses are apparently non-essential. It’s ludicrous.
“People are having to travel hundreds to kilometres just to buy milk or visit the post office.
At least in Sydney you can travel within five kilometres for essential goods and services. If you live on the Queensland side of Mungindi you can’t travel a few hundred metres for a loaf of bread.
“The bureaucrats have lost the plot. We’re supposed to be compassionate but there’s no compassion. Our community can’t function like this.
“We need to have our own bubble. No one here is travelling away anywhere. No one here wants to be the one who brings Covid into the community.”
Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service’s media team is yet to return calls.