Mid North Coast Mental Health Services Funding
Mr ROBERT OAKESHOTT (Port Macquarie) [6.18 p.m.]: Tonight I will talk about much-needed funding and resources for mental health services on the mid North Coast. I was very pleased to see in today's budget significant funding in the health sector for the radiotherapy unit developments and the expansion of the combined emergency centre, led by ambulance service funding of $1.35 million. However, over the next couple of years the mid North Coast, but particularly Port Macquarie, will have a unique opportunity to achieve a significant improvement in mental health services as a result of the $80 million repurchase earlier this year of the Port Macquarie Base Hospital. The repurchase will allow the mental health unit at the hospital to finally have a gazetted ward. At the moment, people essentially have to be carted out of town either in the back of a paddy wagon or in an ambulance, which is clinically a shameful way to treat people with a mental illness.
I want to touch on some of the key points raised by staff at the hospital. Whilst we seem to argue endlessly in this place about capital works and infrastructure, there is also a parallel need for training, education and, in this location, refresher education and training in dealing with those with mental illness. For example, if we are to get a gazetted ward at Port Macquarie hospital there has to be an upgrading of knowledge of the 1990 New South Wales Mental Health Act relating to formal admission, magisterial review, community treatment orders, et cetera.
There has to be a serious assessment of the need to employ more registered nurses to ensure quality care monitoring and to set standards of care as is expected to be found in a gazetted unit. There has to be greater knowledge regarding the danger, where rapid tranquillisation could be used as a safety and treatment measure, of rapid tranquillisation of clients who may be acutely psychotic and a danger to themselves and others. There should be further training and refresher continuing education courses regarding the development and maintenance of a therapeutic mix, which may include managing clients who are violent and may need restraint or containment.
There has to be cultural knowledge and education regarding the assessment and treatment of indigenous people. There also has to be training in psychotherapy models such as interpersonal and cognitive behaviour therapy and management strategies in a changing work environment, and the training has to address the transition from the private to the public sector. Issues surrounding the value of developing an evidence-based clinical practice environment, which is facilitated by clinical nurse consultants and senior nurses, need to be addressed.
It is important to develop support groups for minority workers, including consumer representatives and indigenous mental health workers. There is a need for adequate training in psychiatry and the establishment of a variety of consultative mechanisms to improve and sustain high quality care across the area. These are just some of the issues that sit alongside the ongoing debate about basic capital needs to which I hope the Minister for Health gives serious consideration.
The improvement of Lifeline services is another unique opportunity in Port Macquarie—and potentially right throughout New South Wales. Most members would know that Lifeline is a vital community telephone counselling service. Importantly, it now deals more and more with people who have a mental illness and it is becoming a bit of a fallback and stopgap service for a range of government departments, not only the Department of Health but also NSW Police, the Department of Community Services, and other relevant government departments. So, as well as putting up my hand for better training and education for mental health services on the mid North Coast, I flag the need for a serious assessment of the role of Lifeline in the delivery of better services for the mentally ill. I know that Lifeline is lobbying hard for $3 million recurrent funding for the training, supervision and mentoring of telephone counsellors across its 16 centres. Hopefully, all members would support that call for funding. This is an argument about investment not only in physical infrastructure but also in human infrastructure.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.23 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Port Macquarie for his very thoughtful input into the complex range of issues, concerning not only capital needs for mental health services but all the issues relating to servicing those needs. I speak with particular knowledge because my father suffered from a psychotic illness, which eventually led to his death in Port Macquarie hospital. My father died almost 20 years ago but I know that there is still a great need in regional areas for the sorts of services the member has spoken about. I know that the honourable member for Port Macquarie will continue to be a very strong advocate for the development of those services, as he just proved himself to be, and for the role that Lifeline plays in telephone counselling not only those with mental illness but also many people suffering what I would call the stress of day-to-day life, particularly at present in country areas, where drought and unemployment are a concern.
Private members' statements noted.