Broken Hill mother Bec Schmidt was planning a trip to Adelaide for her six-year-old daughter Hope’s final round of chemotherapy when they were denied entry to South Australia due to a hasty border closure.

Key points:

  • The mother of a child with leukaemia was only granted an SA Health exemption for chemotherapy treatment after it was fast tracked by SA Police
  • She received a call from SA Police after speaking on local Broken Hill radio
  • She says she isn’t the only case needing access to SA for medical purposes being overlooked

The family has been frequenting the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide for regular treatment since Hope was diagnosed with leukaemia in December 2019.

In an easing of the burden in September, South Australia made a snap announcement to ease border restrictions with Broken Hill, reinstating a cross border travel bubble with the isolated outback town.

The return of unrestricted travel meant Ms Schmidt, Hope, and her family could access her final round of chemotherapy with less worry about waiting for a SA Health exemption or the stress of quarantine.

Then only a week later, the border closed again after two new cases were identified in Broken Hill, with the lack of communication drawing fury from the community.

Ms Schmidt was told she could not apply for a SA Health exemption because it was deemed unnecessary for a cross border community member, and when the borders closed her access to South Australia was denied.

“We had to have this particular appointment booked in for six weeks and had everything organised to do our SA Health exemption,” she said.

Hope Clare has battled Leukaemia for almost two years, but is now in her final round of chemotherapy.(Supplied: Bec Schmidt)

Noise made on local radio

The abrupt border closure prompted SA Police Chief Superintendent Stuart McLean to address the rash decision on ABC Broken Hill radio.

“In this case the decision was made not to give advance notice and we are very aware that has caused an convenience to some people,” he said.

Upon hearing about Hope’s family, Superintendent McLean made a direct personal call to Bec Schmidt to help fast track their exemption process.

“Once he hung up that phone [in the interview] he called,” she said.

“I doubt that would have happened without ABC’s input, to be honest. Just due to the delay and the system.”

Without the fast-tracked exemption the family would have missed their appointment, and in turn waited more weeks to reschedule.

“We had been preparing for this trip for six weeks because we have been under restrictions during lockdown and had to prepare differently to even access the hospital this time,” Ms Schmidt said.

Ms Schmidt said the gaps in communication between SA Health and SA Police were laid bare through the delays in processes and inconsistency in exemption grants.

“It feels like our applications go unanswered,” she said.

“And the fact you can only access the border for urgent health care, it’s just hypocritical.”

Health exemptions for Broken Hill residents with urgent health care needs are usually applied for through SA Health exemption officers on a case-by-case basis.

Currently, residents from Silverton and Broken Hill are not permitted to enter South Australia without an approved SA Health exemption.

SA Health has been contacted for comment.

Posted , updated