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Ferguson's Failure on Psychiatric Medicine at the RHH

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Tags: Hospitals, Mental Health, Royal Hobart Hospital

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens' Health spokesperson 

The Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists yesterday formally advised the Tasmanian Health Service that the Royal Hobart Hospital would no longer be considered an accredited training hospital. The registrars currently training and working in the hospital are to be immediately redirected to posts in community mental health centres.

The withdrawal of 2 - 3 training psychiatrists from the staff of the Department of Psychiatric Medicine is a devastating blow to the functioning of the RHH.  It will have a real impact on patients seeking acute mental health care in southern Tasmania, and it raises further serious questions about the Health Minister’s handling of the situation.

In Question Time today, Minister Ferguson implied he'd only heard of this matter on Monday, but we understand the College has been trying to negotiate an outcome with his Department for months. 

The College is yet to provide a statement of reasons for withdrawing their accreditation, but we have heard reports from the public and private sector indicating it’s due to the pressure being placed on training registrars.

Understaffing and a reduction of beds has meant training psychiatrists are being forced to cut corners on best-practice, and are pushed to discharge patients too early.  This is all on Health Minister, Michael Ferguson’s watch.

It was Minister Ferguson who cut beds at the RHH Department of Psychiatric Medicine to 32. This was against the advice of psychiatrists, and it’s putting unbearable pressure on training staff and patients. 

The loss of accreditation will also mean Tasmanian registrars will be forced interstate to train in a hospital setting. The last thing the hospitals and health system need is a loss of future doctors.

There is already a shortage of psychiatrists in Tasmania, and no apparent extra capacity. Importing locums from the mainland is not the answer, as it affects the continuity and timeliness of care for patients. 

Minister Ferguson must explain to Tasmanians how things got to this point, and must address this as a matter of urgency. He needs to outline how he will ensure the RHH has enough qualified psychiatrists and the RANZCP accreditation is recovered.