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'These aren’t just news stories': Malinauskas predicts years-long ramping fix

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Premier Peter Malinauskas says it will take years to put an end to ambulance ramping following another patient death, while conceding the former Labor government’s decision to sell forest harvest rights in the state’s south east was “wrong”.

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Speaking to reporters from Mount Gambier during his first visit to the regions since becoming the state’s leader, Malinauskas urged South Australians to “stop and think about” the people who have lost their lives while waiting for an ambulance.

It comes after the Ambulance Employees Association revealed a man aged in his 60s died yesterday afternoon while waiting in an ambulance ramped outside Flinders Medical Centre.

The union tweeted that the man was COVID-positive and went into cardiac arrest after being ramped outside the hospital for five hours.

Paramedics and hospital staff attempted to resuscitate the man before he passed away.

Several people died while waiting for an ambulance in South Australia in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s election, with Labor’s pledge to “fix the ramping crisis” a key selling point of its election campaign.

Asked this morning how long it would take to prevent further ramping deaths, Malinauskas said: “it’s going to take time”.

“People were asking me throughout the entirety of the election campaign: ‘When will we see change?’, and every time… I’d be honest and said: ‘Our commitment is over the course of four years to reduce ramping down to a level that ambulances start rolling up on time,” he said.

“That is my commitment before the election, that is my commitment after the election.

“Everybody understands this isn’t going to happen overnight, it’s not even going to happen in a week or months – it’s going to take years.

“We believe that over the course of four years we can see a difference start to be made.”

Asked if he would apologise for the man’s death, Malinauskas said: “I take responsibility for delivering on our policy, which is to dramatically increase capacity within our health system and try and end the ramping crisis which leads to these tragedies”.

“When you read about these stories in a tweet it just becomes another tragedy, but when you actually take a moment to stop and think about that person in that circumstance and their family, it makes you realise how acute the need is to do something about it.

“These aren’t stats, these aren’t just news stories, these are real people and they deserve better and that’s what my government’s committed to doing.”

Meanwhile, Malinauskas said the former Weatherill Government’s decision to sell harvest rights to pine forests in the state’s south east was “wrong”.

The forward sale of the government-owned plantations, worth $670 million, prompted protests across the region in 2011.

“We can’t go back in time, we can only go forward,” he said.

“The actions of the former government – whether it be the Marshall Government or the one before that – that’s for them to talk about.

“What I’m responsible for is my government and I’ve got a forestry policy that we’re serious about and I’m looking forward to delivering it.”

Independent Mount Gambier MP Troy Bell, who was one of the leading protestors against the forestry sell-off, this morning said: “At some point you either move on, or you bear a grudge to your own community’s detriment”.

“This is a different Labor government,” he said.

“I’ve never heard a premier apologise for a previous government’s actions before in my political time and I think that’s the character of Peter Malinauskas.”

Bell praised Malinauskas for visiting his electorate within 72 hours of being sworn in as premier and for pledging in the order of $100 million worth of projects, including a $24 million upgrade of the Mount Gambier Hospital.

“Politics is all about trust and Peter Malinauskas rang me at about 10 o’clock on Saturday night and he said: ‘I’ve made two commitments to you – one; I’ll be down in your region within 72 hours of the election, and two; the $100 million commitment was never predicated on being a minority government,” he said.

“So many people came up to me after the election and said: ‘He’s going to be too busy, he hasn’t even sworn his cabinet in, South Australia stops at the toll gate, you watch – he’s going to let you down’, well, here he is within 72 hours making good on the first commitment.

“He’s genuine, he cares and I’m really looking forward to having a productive working relationship with him over the next four years.”

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