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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Mental Health

11 June 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, it is pretty galling to stand up here and have to talk about the words, but the words matter. We are actually talking about young people's lives and we are talking about improving the services for young people in acute stress, mental health distress in Tasmania, particularly in southern Tasmania and also in northern Tasmania.

We have a situation where young people and children are admitted in mental health distress to have intensive acute psychiatric services support but, at the moment, into wards for adults. That is untenable in a society like Tasmania, to continue to place young people into wards with adults. Children who may be eight, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20, into situations with people who might be 40, 50, 70, and up and who have a whole life and emotion and, frankly, an energy level which is utterly inappropriate for a child to be exposed to.

This is the context within which Coroner McTaggart made her very strong recommendation to the Tasmanian Government and I am quoting from her judgment:

That a dedicated inpatient unit for adolescents or young persons between the ages of 12 and 25 years be established, designed around the needs of that cohort, including the treatment of those suffering from an acute state of mental illness or suicidality.

She also went on to make recommendations that there needed to be a multi-systemic approach, a multidisciplinary facility for young people suffering from an acute state of mental illness or suicidality. They must have comprehensive through-care and aftercare models to provide ongoing community-based risk management as children exit from acute care.

The words are that the minister promised and has continued to promise a dedicated acute adolescent and child mental health facility in the south and the north, yet again we see that he continues to be slippery with language. It cannot be the case that a ward which may have - now the minister is talking about units within units. A dedicated adolescent mental health unit but within that it is actually going to be a ward and within the ward there will be a unit.

We really need some clarity about what is going on here because I do not understand. The minister is not being clear how many beds there will be. Now he is referring to the comments made by Dr Groves in the Legislative Council during the Estimates process last week. He quoted Dr Groves saying that there is an average need of 6.8, 6.5 beds for such a facility in Tasmania. I asked Dr Groves questions in health Estimates last week and I had from him what I understood to be quite a different sense. This is quoting from Hansard from Estimates last week. He said -

The staffing model is still in the process of being developed so it will be able to cater for a flexible number of inpatients. I would expect that at any point in time we will always have adolescent mental health inpatients in that unit because the demand numbers for our state recognise that we would need to have that.

That was precisely on the basis of 16 beds, minister. That was the context. That was the question. He was talking in the paragraph beforehand about a 16-bed adolescent unit. Then he also said:

Not all beds are for mental health.

Then he went on to say that he would expect that at any point in time that the adolescent mental health inpatients would require all the beds so what is going on?

Minister, I am reading from Hansard and I have just read it into Hansard again.

Mr Ferguson - You are verballing.

Dr WOODRUFF - I am not, minister. Are you disagreeing with the way Hansard is recorded? The conversation from last week. Dr Groves said -

I would expect that at any point in time we will always have adolescent mental health inpatients in that unit because the demand number -

For that unit being, the 16 beds of the unit that I was asking him about -

because the demand numbers for our state recognise that we would need to have that.

My point is we have a situation where there is slippery language from this minister. How can we, how can parents and young people in distress, possibly trust this minister's ability to be able to deliver this really key service that is required? The minister refused to answer, what will happen between now and when that service is built?

We have a situation at the moment where there is nothing. All these promises and slippery language about whether it will be six beds or 16 beds and whether they will be dedicated or whether young people who have other issues, who are inpatients, whether they will also be accessing the ward? It seems they will be. What will happen between now and then? They are still without support.

Time expired.