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Matter of Public Importance - Mental Health


Rosalie Woodruff MP

Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Tags: Mental Health

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, it is a shameful performance from both the Labor and the Liberal parties in this instance.  The Labor Party has raised some very important questions but it seems to be more about playing the politics than understanding the complexity of the situation.  It is a fair point to point the finger at this Liberal minister and this Liberal Government, but we need to understand that it is more than just about the situation at the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Mr Ferguson has quoted from Connie Digolis and the comments that she has made but has taken them out of context.  He has very conveniently used them as a method of justifying poor management of the Royal Hobart Hospital emergency department and the services for people with mental health there, the psychiatric unit and the removal of 10 beds from that unit three years ago that has left people with mental health in crisis without sufficient acute services in Tasmania.  The minister has taken Ms Digolis out of context and made it sound as though she is making an argument that we should not be putting the money that is needed into acute mental services.  It is neither one nor the other, but both.

 

Mr Ferguson - She said it is both.  That is what she said and that is why I quoted her.

 

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, you took the rest of her comments outside of context to justify the failure of you and your Government to properly fund the psychiatric unit and the acute services at the Royal Hobart Hospital.  The fact is we are now 10 beds fewer than we were in the previous term of government and we are seeing the flow-on effects to this sector, and more broadly, the community sector.

What we are also seeing is a government that has gouged money out of community mental health services.  Ms Digolis is entirely correct in the comments she makes about the need to properly fund community health services, mental health services, because they have not been done under this Liberal Government.  What has happened is the removal of local and regional community mental health services, social workers on the east coast have gone, we have five fewer people working for Rural Alive & Well now than we did only two years ago.  That reveals to us that we have a failure of this state Government to put any money into regional health services that is required -

 

Mr Ferguson - $1.3 million.

 

Dr WOODRUFF - Listen to the end of my sentence:  the money that is required.  Instead we have taken money away and done under the counter deals with foreign companies and sold off bits of Tasmanian land, while we have been keeping money out of essential public services.

We had the organisation, Flourish, in 2015 put out a position paper about supporting the development of a sustainable peer workforce in Tasmania, a way forward in mental health.

 

Mr Ferguson - We funded it for the first time ever.

Dr WOODRUFF - The work on this has not been funded.

Mr Ferguson - That is not true.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order.  Minister, you had your opportunity.  Dr Woodruff has the call.

 

Dr WOODRUFF - You can fund papers, but not the follow up work of that.  The follow up is not being funded.  So much talk has been done about the Rethink Mental Health strategy and it is a brilliant strategy that is widely supported by the sector.  This work has been done despite the Liberal Government and despite the minister.  It is being done by the good work of the community sector and the people working in the public service who have been there for a long time working on this particular paper.  It just happened to coincide with this minister's term of government. 

He has not put the money into funding it until the last minute.  He has held three years of funding back in mental health and brought it in at the last minute.  It sure looks good now, but we have not actually seen it there for a long period of time.  Ms Digolis is correct in speaking for the sector when she says that we desperately need more money into community mental health services.

We need to continue to remove the barriers.  One of the biggest barriers in Tasmania is about stigma to do with mental health illnesses and around the issue of suicide.  The work of Rural Alive & Well counsellors is incredibly important in rural Tasmanian townships.  There were 15, but under the Liberal Government their funding has been cut by a third, so that there are now only 10 full-time equivalents.  I believe there are only nine actually functioning in the state at the moment.  When this Liberal Government quibbles at putting $30 000 into Rural Alive & Well it really shows the depth of their failure to understand how this service needs to be funded because it is so good for the communities that it supports them.  It is clearly the case that money has been put there, minister.

 

Mr Ferguson - Yes, $1.3 million.

 

Dr WOODRUFF - Yes, it is nice to talk about the numbers, but people living on the ground in Tasmania know services have been cut under this Government.  It does not matter how you like to spin the numbers, people in rural Tasmania understand there are not the services there that there used to be.  There are not the services in Hamilton, Geeveston, Swansea and Triabunna that there were.  There are clear gaps around the state and they need to be fixed by this Liberal minister.  I suspect we will see some confetti-like funding going to some of these areas and maybe that will plug the gap, but that is not the way to run a health department.  That is the way to run an increase in mental health diseases and what we are seeing at the Royal Hobart Hospital, an increase in people with acute psychosis, waiting sometimes, as has been reported, up to six days in the emergency department because of the failure to find an inpatient bed for them.

 

Time expired.