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Aboriginal leaders in bureaucratic wedge over decaying clinic

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The State Government says that a SA Health-owned building with mould and asbestos and used by an Aboriginal health clinic in Ceduna poses “no serious health risks” and is safe to occupy, and funding a replacement for the 50-year-old site is a federal responsibility.

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Yadu Health Aboriginal Corporation in Ceduna says between 30 to 40 per cent of the building, from which it operates free of charge, is deemed unsafe due to water damage, asbestos and mould.

InDaily last month reported concerns from the Aboriginal community-controlled organisation’s leaders that the 50-year-old building had already reached the end of its life and now posed a safety threat for patients and staff.

Yadu Health says the State and Federal Governments are yet to respond to its plea for funding to build a new clinic, despite a Commonwealth pledge earlier this month to spend $254.4 million on Aboriginal health infrastructure upgrades.

Yadu Health’s executive strategic partnerships manager Warren Miller told InDaily that it was a “game of cat and mouse” trying to meet with leaders to discuss funding.

He said he was worried that Yadu would miss out on receiving a slice of the $254.4 million fund, which was announced as part of the Government’s Closing the Gap program.

“We’ve got mould, asbestos in this environment where we’re trying to provide COVID vaccinations and everything else,” Miller said.

“We haven’t heard anything back from state or federal.”

Inside the Yadu Health building earlier this year before repairs. The service says it constantly has to fix mould and water damage in the building. Photo: Supplied

A State Government spokesperson told InDaily that it supported Yadu Health’s quest to build a new clinic “through Commonwealth Government funding”.

The spokesperson said a recent survey found that Yadu Health’s current building “can be safely occupied and there are no serious health risks”.

“We are continuing to work alongside Yadu Health in ensuring the facility can operate in line with health and safety standards and will undertake any repair and maintenance works as needed,” the spokesperson said.

“The State Government has granted Yadu Health a 99-year lease of the land at the current (site) to enable them to apply for a Commonwealth Government grant to construct a new building.

“Our priority is to work alongside Yadu Health to secure a new, purpose-built facility that remains co-located with our health services so that we can continue our close collaboration to address the health needs of our community.”

Meanwhile, South Australian MPs from both sides of federal parliament have urged Health Minister Greg Hunt to use the Closing the Gap funding to build a new clinic for Yadu Health.

South Australian Labor Senator Marielle Smith last week wrote to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt urging him to urgently spend some of the infrastructure funding on a replacement clinic.

Smith told InDaily that the Yadu Health clinic was in an “absolutely catastrophic state of disrepair” and leaders had been “suffering from bureaucratic buck passing between the State and Commonwealth Governments”.

“We can see where the money is to fix this in the budget now – it’s clear in black and white – and I don’t think there’s any excuse at all for using that fund to fix the Yadu Health clinic,” she said.

“I’ve called on the Health Minister to step up immediately and provide funding for this clinic from that fund.

“It’s announced, it’s there and it should be used and deployed to Yadu.”

Cracked walls inside the Yadu Health building earlier this year. Photo: Supplied

Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey, whose electorate of Grey covers Ceduna, said he had been “putting the word out for some time now that the building either needs to be significantly upgraded or replaced”.

He said half the building was “beyond redemption” and the other half “has come to the point of time where it would be better for a new build”.

“I have had some encouragement from the Health Minister, but we haven’t really made any headway yet,” he said.

“The announcement of the $250 million pool which sits within the last Closing the Gap statement, I think, gives us every reason to be optimistic about getting a decent share of that to put a new building in place.

“I’ve already spoken and written to Greg Hunt and I’ve encouraged Yadu Health to ensure that they’ve got a good working plan in place.”

Yadu Health has already undertaken a business case for a new clinic and estimates that it would cost up to $15 million.

A spokesperson for Hunt said he was “aware of, and concerned about, the infrastructure in some Aboriginal community-controlled health services”.

The spokesperson said the provision of funding for Aboriginal health services would be determined by a “co-design process” in collaboration with the Aboriginal health sector.

“Following co-design, a transparent process to identify where the funding is most needed will be undertaken that will provide opportunity for organisations to seek funding,” the spokesperson said.

“We will continue to work constructively with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to provide infrastructure reform across the whole sector.”

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