Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr FERGUSON
In 2015 Coroner Olivia McTaggart held an inquest into the tragic death by suicide of six schoolchildren and recommended a dedicated inpatient unit be built for young people aged 12 to 25 who suffer mental illness or suicidality. Here we are, four years later and Tasmania is still without a dedicated acute youth mental health ward. Sadly, this week another coronial inquest is being heard into the death by suicide of another bright and beautiful young Tasmanian who travelled interstate because he could not get the mental health care in our state when he needed it. For your sixth budget in a row, minister, you have starved CAHMS of funding and failed to fund a dedicated child and youth acute mental health inpatient unit. Instead, you have funded a general hospital ward but there is no certainty it will have the specialist mental health services and staffing it needs. What do you say to those parents today, who I know are writing personal letters to you and are battling on their own to keep their children safe?
Madam Speaker, that is an appalling rewriting of the Budget. That is an appalling statement by the member -
Dr Woodruff - There is nothing in there; no commitment in black and white.
Mr FERGUSON - This Budget provides the very funding that will enable the opening of those dedicated inpatient adolescent units, not just in the south, but also in the north. I think Tasmanian parents and families, and I say this very assertively, are very poorly served by this negativity when the Government is just on the edge of opening those facilities, which have taken years to build. They are now on the point of delivery.
In the north of Tasmania we are currently building that facility for northern families. It is the first time that such a service has been -
Madam SPEAKER - Order. This is a very important subject and we want to hear the answer. I suggest that everyone be quiet.
Mr FERGUSON - Madam Speaker, I am passionate about this subject because every life lost to suicide is a complete tragedy. It is very regrettable to me, and I hope to members opposite, that these facilities have not been previously available in any region under any government of any colour. We are now building these facilities.
As a former school teacher, I have seen the damage done to families and young lives through the very sad incidence of suicide and self-harm, and it is reprehensible that people in the community continue to hear these messages that the Government is not providing these services when we are just about to -
Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. So the minister can calm himself a little bit, perhaps he could point the House to that section of the Budget that funds an acute mental health unit for young people.
Madam SPEAKER - I appreciate that it is not a point of order. I am sure the minister will be able to point to it at some stage.
Mr FERGUSON - Madam Speaker, that is an irrelevant point of order. The answer to the question that they could have asked is in budget paper 2, volume 1, Department of Health. It is there in black and white.
We are here to serve the Tasmanian people truthfully, and the Tasmanian families who are out there listening to these negative statements are being misled - and by the Leader of the Opposition as well. They are being told that the Government is ignoring these cries for help. I want to say it is very sad that it has not been possible before now.
Mr FERGUSON - Madam Speaker, can I continue?
Madam SPEAKER - Yes. The minister will be heard in silence.
Mr FERGUSON - It is very sad and regrettable that these facilities have not been available before and there may be a time where it would be reasonable to have that political argument, but I will not have that argument today. I want Tasmanian families to know that -
Dr Woodruff interjecting.
Mr FERGUSON - Do you want the truth? Please listen to it.
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff - warning number one.
Mr FERGUSON - We are very passionate about this. The Premier and every member on this side of the House joins me in this. We are determined to drive down suicide rates in our state and especially for vulnerable families and young Tasmanians. I have the melancholy, if you like, bittersweet news to allow members to understand that we are pleased to see that the rate has been coming down. It is never good enough until it is zero, but we are also doing our part and I want Tasmanians to know -
Madam SPEAKER - Order. I said 'in silence'.
Mr FERGUSON - I want the Tasmanian people to know that they cannot listen to those criticisms and take it as fact. It is not fact. The truth is that we are currently building the facilities for a dedicated inpatient adolescent unit in the south as part of the Royal Hobart Hospital redevelopment. It is not just the physical space, we are also funding the beds. It is in the Budget. The same is true in the north for Launceston, with eight beds. I want to send that message of reassurance and I want members of the Opposition to stop saying things to Tasmanians that are not true.