Tasmanian Times

Editor's Choice - Row 1

Mental health: the poorest cousin

The Royal Hobart Hospital

Nowhere in the health system has the budget-cutting been as severe as in mental health. And nowhere is that fact as poorly understood.

It was not always like this. For decades, under successive Liberal and Labor administrations, funding rose every year until, in 2010, there was enough money to provide Tasmanians with a level of services comparable with the rest of the nation.

Then, in 2011, Lara Giddings was panicked into believing the state was going broke. It wasn’t, but the savage cuts she made created turmoil throughout the public sector. Health lost the most – and mental health lost even more.

In a single year, Giddings took away 10.3% of the mental health budget. Most health areas got a boost after that, as she tried to repair the harm she had caused. But in mental health, the perennial poor cousin, the cuts went on. And when the government changed, the Liberals compounded the damage.

Five years after the Giddings cuts, over 16% of the state government’s contribution to public mental health services had disappeared. And in the two years since then, another 10 acute psychiatric beds at the Royal Hobart Hospital have been lost and the Peacock Centre in North Hobart was burnt down and not replaced. Promised beds at Mistral Place in the city will not now be built.

Those losses mean funding has fallen dramatically under the Hodgman government.

Tasmania needs more mental health facilities than the rest of the country, not less. And the state government is funded, through the GST system, to provide that extra care. This year alone, $299 million is being taken from other states’ health systems and given to Tasmania to address the higher needs of our population – including the need for psychiatric and mental health support services.

None of that money will go into health. None into mental health.

Tasmania’s suicide rate is 30% higher than the national average. PBS prescriptions for mental disorders are 25% higher here. Psychiatric problems are strongly associated with lower income and education levels – and our average income is 16% below the average.

Overall, our state government needs to spend at least 20% more than other states to ensure Tasmanians can access a level of care in line with the rest of Australia. The government has that money but has other plans for it.

Data recently released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveal just how far Tasmania has fallen behind the rest of the country in caring for people with mental health problems.

We would need an extra 80 acute psychiatric beds just to deliver the same level of care as the rest of the nation.

Psychiatric admissions to the Royal Hobart Hospital rose by 51% over the five years to 2016-17 and by 75% at the Launceston General Hospital. At the same time, the number of beds fell.

Even when patients are treated, we spend less on them.

Homelessness services are being swamped with mental health patients who have nowhere else to go. Poor mental health and homelessness often go together, but half of all homelessness service clients in Tasmania now have a mental health problem. That’s twice the national rate and twice what it was before the budget cuts began.

For politicians of both parties, mental health has been a soft target. Other areas – like elective surgery – have shouted much louder. Now we are living with the consequences.

Download Martyn’s full report …

Mental Health

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  1. Stephen Menadue

    November 22, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    The new prison will hold a lot of people with mental illness. Out of sight, out of mind.

    Unless the problem is dealt with at the root level (professional connection) it is the prison and the graveyard that will reduce the problems connected to mental health within the community.

    What an indictment this is on the Libs.

  2. John Hawkins

    November 12, 2018 at 7:12 am

    The sale of the Showground at Glenorchy under the auspices of Scott Gadd is a matter that should be closely investigated.

    That was the site for the Hobart hospital.

    Scott Gadd as CEO oversaw the sale of a large proportion of the site to Bunnings.

    Gadd, the appointee of Lennon as Secretary of Parks Arts and Heritage, was positioned to prevent the removal of the extraordinary exemptions of forestry from all Heritage Legislation and prevent the introduction of Cultural Landscape Legislation into this State.

    This matter was detailed on Tasmanian Times in my article “John Hawkins, heritage landscapes Scott Gadd, Graham Corney, Peter James and David Bedford” published in Tasmanian Times August 3 2009: https://tasmaniantimes.com/2009/08/john-hawkins-heritage-landscapes-scott-gadd-graham-corney-peter-james-and-d/

    Tasmanian Times is a most important resource in that it provides from a public resource an instantly available record of Corruption Over Due Process within this State.

    The Examiner and the Mercury are the puppets of the political system whose employees on retirement are known to take highly paid public service jobs as media advisors to the winning pollies.

    A reward for a job well done?

    On a greenfields site the hospital could have been built on time and on budget with the funds extracted from the Feds by the wonderful Andrew Wilkie, Tasmania’s only real pollie of consequence.

    The money instead has been wasted by a crook system administered by incompetent third rate, brain dead State pollies who control us when the big end of town buys them an election.

    This is such a shame because this island is a truly wonderful place with tremendous potential.

    We must return the Tasmanian parliament to its previous size and elect proper people with brains and integrity to govern in our interests.

    This State will then fly.

    As Andrew Ricketts has recorded in his article, the new planning laws will benefit the developer at the expense of the natives in a cheaper, faster and most appalling way.

    Why does this have to be so?

  3. Rob Halton

    November 12, 2018 at 5:59 am

    Any fool from around town knows very well the RHH rebuild mess is not up to measure, not only to provide general hospital care and well short of mental health requirements which are flying through the roof as drug use soars.

    The fool woman State Labor Health Minister at the time Judy Jackson who in 1999 closed down the mental asylum at New Norfolk, RDH gave no thought to the future of mental Health what so ever!

    This has left potential clients (patients) literally lingering between home, couch surfing, hospital care, private providers, homelessness, public nuisance even prison and temporary police custody!

    The police are known to be the de facto mental health workers the way the problem is shaping and that is not their role unless violence and crime is involved!

    The RHH public hospital rebuild will hardly come up to expectation for general public health let alone mental health treatment!
    What are we going to do once this is the case when the rebuild is completed when, 2000 something or other, most likely never!

    In my opinion the entire situation is a mess within a greater mess, without a greenfield site for the future needs of health remains on shaky ground as I could only suggest the State government acquire the remaining space at Showgrounds Site at Glenorchy for an expanded mental health facility which should relieve the Royal, the Prison and many of the inept private providers the ongoing dramas associated with mental health.

    Anyone with better suggestions?

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