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Contempt of Court Risk Health Minister's Fault

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Saturday, 14 October 2017

Tags: Health, Justice, Corrections, Mental Health, Supreme Court

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens' Health spokesperson 

The Minister for Health, Michael Ferguson, is potentially placing the Tasmanian Health Service in contempt of court.

Minister Ferguson has failed to properly resource the State's only secure mental health facility, the Wilfred Lopes Centre. Staffing levels are now so low the Centre cannot safely follow a Supreme Court order to admit a prisoner for care.

The THS says it will take them until "at least 15 November" to be able to fill positions and admit the prisoner, but the court expects an answer this Monday. 

The THS have tried to deflect the blame onto staff and the nurses' union, who have refused to allow any new patient admissions until safe staffing levels are established.

The standoff is another symptom of this Liberal Health Minister's mismanagement of public mental health services. Under Michael Ferguson, the THS has not worked collaboratively with nurses to make a long-term workforce plan, and all community and inpatient facilities have been chronically under-resourced each budget.

This Supreme Court case is a very public example of the extreme pressure mental health services suffer under this Liberal Government. Behind the case is the everyday misery of mental health patients and their families who are denied publicly-funded care when they most need it.

Minister Ferguson needs to take full responsibility and do whatever it takes to fix this instance of injustice immediately. Beyond this, he needs to open his door and welcome in the many Tasmanians who have been calling for him to listen to their pain.

Instead of "next election" thinking, Minister Ferguson needs to forge long-term strategic plans to support people in acute mental health crisis, and to prevent others from getting to that point.