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Launceston General Hospital - Psychiatric Services

Parliamentary Activity - Tuesday, 15 August 2017


Ms DAWKINS question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON

[10.10 a.m.]
After the Royal Hobart Hospital Department of Psychiatric Medicine's loss of RANZCP accreditation last week, this week the Launceston General Hospital has been left with no permanent psychiatrist and a half-time consultant fully booked. Patients presenting at the Launceston General Hospital with acute mental health issues will not be able to be seen by a psychiatrist or a registrar, equating to around 30 doctor sessions lost to clients this week. This is yet another example of your health system in crisis.

What are you doing to address this serious deficiency in mental health services in Launceston? What assurance can you give that people in acute mental distress who present to the Launceston General Hospital will be given the care they need?


ANSWER

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Bass, Ms Dawkins, for her question. I support providing the necessary resources for mental health across our hospitals. This Government has a strong record on mental health. We want people to receive the care they need as soon as possible and acknowledge there have been increasing demand pressures, which includes mental health. That is why the Government has been working closely with staff, including clinical staff, to deliver additional beds, improving patient flow and to build a better health system.

Although the question was about Launceston General Hospital, given the question talked about Hobart, the two registrar posts at Hobart will continue to receive training within the Tasmanian program. THS has been putting in place arrangements to ensure patient care is not disrupted. The THS is also working with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry to resolve issues the college has raised.

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. If members are not interested in the answer, I can call on the next question.

Mr FERGUSON - I remind the House again the Opposition last week falsely asserted on a number of occasions that this Government has cut 10 mental health beds. That is not true. When they verballed the college last week in relation to that, it caused quite a lot distress.

Ms DAWKINS - Point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask the Minister to address the question I asked. It was specifically related to the LGH, to acute mental health patients, and how they are going to be taken care of this week.

Madam SPEAKER - I presume the member is referring to relevance. I again refer to my long-standing ruling and the previous Speaker's long-standing rulings of lengthy questions requiring latitude in granting of the question and therefore the same latitude is applied in the answer.

Mr FERGUSON - The question mentioned both Hobart and Launceston. It has been acknowledged, including at my recent public meeting in Launceston, that there is a shortage of medical psychiatric staff at the LGH. That is part of the recruitment campaign that is currently under way. I encourage Ms Dawkins to positively engage with that. We do not need to be sending scary messages to the community, as I am seeing from members on the other side of this Chamber.

The funding is there. Where it is difficult to recruit, market-based allowances are being offered to qualified staff so we can maintain the necessary work. We continue, in every respect, the service at Northside, based at LGH. We are putting in more resources to meet increased demand. I hope that will be welcomed. I hope that Ms Dawkins will also welcome the $16 million that we recently gave to community-based mental health, including $11 million for individual home care packages that have been provided to reduce the need for hospital in-patient care and presentations to the ED. They are packages of care for right across the state, including in the north.

We acknowledge these challenges. The funding is available for the staff so that we can fully staff those services. We will continue assiduously to achieve that outcome.

In this service it would be entirely irresponsible to send a patient who requires a hospital bed into a hotel room.

Opposition members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order. The House will come to order immediately. If members have not noticed I am slightly croaky today and I do not want to have to be forced to try to shout.

Mr FERGUSON - Madam Speaker, I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to rule out her controversial medi-hotel model for mental health patients.