THE struggling Keith hospital is losing its fight for independence and is in talks about joining the public health system.
The shift comes eight months after the private community hospital accepted a one-off grant of $350,000 from the State Government to continue employing GPs while upgrading facilities.
Health Minister John Hill yesterday said his offer in May to take over the Keith hospital had remained on the table, even after the hospital chose the second of two options - a one-off grant of $350,000 for the 2012-13 financial year.
At the time, Keith and District Hospital board chairman James De Barro said the takeover offer had been rejected because "to become a public hospital would mean we had exhausted all our options".
"For as long as we can chart our own course, I think that's better," he said.
The hospital, which was established nearly 60 years ago, has been unable to recover from losing more than $300,000 in recurrent State Government funding in 2010.
Keith residents took their fight to Parliament and Facebook and had stepped up fundraising but yesterday Mr De Barro said the board had decided it was time to work with the Government on how a takeover might look.
"The aim of this process is to guarantee sustainability and stability in the provision of the necessary health services to the significant region of the upper South-East around Keith," he said.
Mr Hill said Country Health SA would work with the Keith hospital board for the next three to six months.
He said it was important to understand the health needs of the community and to meet those, rather than the needs of the hospital.
"Following this, the board and Country Health SA will be able to put options to the community for their consideration," he said.
Mr Hill said it was possible Country Health SA could run the hospital but the community could own the assets.
Throughout the negotiations, and in addition to the one-off grant, the Keith hospital has continued to receive $300,000 from the Government for emergency services it provides to public patients in the region.
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