Fix it

The state government isn’t bankrupt. It has the capacity to find money, to raise money, to borrow money. So what the hell is its excuse for this?

MENTALLY ill Victorians who should be in psychiatric care spend up to four days in emergency departments because of a shortage of beds…

Dr Eddey said that, depending on how unwell people were, they could be behaving violently and require restraint in a secure room with constant supervision. Regardless of their behaviour, he said it was inappropriate for them to be treated in emergency departments.

”If you don’t have a specialised quiet room, which only some places have, general cubicles subject you to 24-hour light, 24-hour noise and 24-hour activity. If you’re mentally ill, it’s probably the worst place to be.”

The closing of mental health facilities over the past twenty years and the reduction of funding to those that remain – under both Liberal and Labor – is one of the stupidest and most short-sighted forms of cost-cutting in Victorian history. It makes the condition of desperately unwell people worse (making it more expensive to treat them in the long run) and, for some, it makes certain crimes inevitable, creating further public expense in police, lawyers and courts – not including the cost of the crimes themselves. And most importantly, it’s inhuman and unjust.


This is an emergency department. It is not a place to shove mentally-ill people while you wait for a bed to become available.

What’s the Mental Health Minister have to say for herself?

A spokeswoman for Mental Health Minister Lisa Neville said waits had improved in recent years: 4 per cent of patients waited longer than a day for admission in 2004-05, and less than 1 per cent did so this year.

She said the Government had funded an extra 139 mental health beds, 24 community care beds and 100 prevention and recovery beds since 2002 and was in the midst of the ”biggest reform agenda in Victoria’s history”, which included $18 million for a new triage system.

That’s not the same thing at all. What plan does Ms Neville have to address the problem? Clearly “139 mental health beds” is not even close to meeting the need, and it doesn’t in any way address the other shortfalls in the system. Nor would improved triage methods. There should never be a mentally ill person who is turned away, or who is unable to receive treatment.

It’s just not good enough. Minister Neville – fix it. This isn’t a pissy little scandal you can brush aside that’ll be forgotten in a week – the effects will be felt every day until you do your job.

If you can’t, resign and let them replace you with someone who’ll take the matter seriously.

AND The Age? Nice to see some actual genuine journalism. If only your site didn’t feature forced video ads with sound and enormous pop-ups that take over the whole screen. The former is something I’d pay for. The latter makes me very reluctant to link to you at all.

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8 responses to “Fix it

  1. Society will not consider this as a major issue due to the fear factor- take a local mental health facility for example. http://knox-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/editorial-halcyon/
    A huge backlash lead to the centre withdrawing its application. Now this centres relocation is uncertain- how pathetic and narrow minded.
    Bottom line is that people do not want a collection of ‘psychos’ hanging around their neigbourhoods.
    The irony being that if these community based support centres were more accessible, people with mental illnesses would be less likely to suffer extremes in their condition that could lead to violence and other crimes.

  2. Try Firefox with Adblock Plus and Flashblock. You’ll be able to browse the papers without the constant annoyance.

  3. Cheers for that. Downloading them now.

    It’s a pity for The Age that the only way to use their site reasonably is to block ALL ads, isn’t it? That’s what happens when you’re greedy…

    Now if someone would create a “non-crashing Firefox” plugin for Firefox…

  4. It’s partly a Federal problem as well. Basically, about 7-8% of health spending in Australia is for mental health, when it makes up about 21-23% of the need. The use of ED as a holding bay happens to a wide range of patients. The problem is systemic and nation wide, and I don’t believe the Minister is to blame. Or, to put it differently, I’d bet large sums of money that an immediate change in state Minister wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference.

  5. But that’s just buck-passing. She’s the minister. If she can’t do the job required, then she should resign. If her successor can’t, then he or she should resign, too.

    Determine how much money is needed and find it.

  6. Determine how much money is needed and find it.

    It’s not merely a question of more spending, even though some of that is required. The minister does need to do a better job, but kneejerk sackings are the stuff of breakfast radio, not sober analysis.

    Here’s a few points that come to mind:

    1. Brumby is more to blame than Neville, simply because he and treasury hold the purse-strings. Since Kennett, we’ve had successive State governments that prefer bread-and-circuses to health spending. Everybody is fighting for the same finite supply of pie, and you have to ask why the Grand Prix etc. gets some of the plummest pieces.

    2. The Feds also need a kick in the pants regarding mental health. The Howard government did absolutely nothing for years, other than rebating counselling (i.e. giving us a free market solution to the problem that has failed to deal with chronic problems). Also, psychiatric treatment is wildly disparate, based on location, and, particularly, income and private vs public status. This is the domain of the Federal government, and their responsibility to fix.

    3. The various treatment and intervention models are themselves broken in many respects. It makes no sense to throw more money at a failed model. Nor can we simply return to institutionalisation – it was scrapped for some very good reasons. The mental health disciplines need to get their act together vis-a-vis treatment and policy – doping peopl up and giving them some CBT is a recipe for a lifetime of revolving door treatment.

    4. The senior public servants of Victoria vary from mildy incompetent to offensively so, and from borderline corrupt to outright criminal. They are the ones who hide problems from the Minister, the latter being forced to face the press on the fly after the latest scandal. Purge the fatty upper layers of the public service before you sack any ministers.

    5. Finally, the community likes to complain, but seldom takes any responsibility. All those homeless psychotics in the CBD once had family and friends – where are they now? Why did so many of these people invariably experience a range of traumas and hardships before getting to where they are? Government alone can never fix those sorts of problems if the community is not on board.

    Please bear in mind, I make these points also taking it as a given that mental health spending does need a significant increase, but it does need to be thought through.

  7. 1. Agreed. But she’s the Minister – she’s the first port of call.

    2. Agreed, but not an excuse for Victoria to let the system lapse waiting for the Feds to wake up.

    3. Sure. And she’s not doing anything about that.

    4. Sure. And she’s not doing anything about that. It’s her department.

    5. Sure. But the “public” isn’t answerable to the rest of us. The minister is. The government should be stepping in when there’s an obvious problem.

    I agree that it’s not about throwing money at the problem, a proper system needs to be designed. But the reason it hasn’t been is that they use “lack of money” as a first excuse, and nothing gets done.

  8. I refer to you as known centrist

    The article doesn’t mention that it’s only those that are a danger to others who even get to that stage. Try getting help for a suicidal person in the public hospital system.

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