General News Politics — 02 October 2012

She could be Queensland’s most costly mental health patient. A middle-aged woman is being cared for at The Park mental health facility at a cost of $1.2 million a year.

Blatant bureaucratic buck-passing and a dispute between a union and a department have been blamed for the extraordinary cost of caring for an individual patient.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg yesterday insisted the cost of the woman’s care was just another case of waste he had inherited.

“This person should be out in some kind of community-care environment,” he said.

“People must ask whether there is no end to the stupid waste of the previous government.”

The woman, who is the subject of a forensic order and cannot be named, was returned to the Wacol institution in December last year by the Department of Communities.

According to a Queensland Health internal briefing note, the woman had been living in a unit under community care but staff had withdrawn “on union advice”.

The woman’s high needs have meant nurses at The Park are regularly required to fill overtime and casual shifts for her around-the-clock care.

With two staff rostered on at all times to three shifts daily, the care is costing the equivalent of 10 full-time nurses or $1.2 million annually.

“Since the patient was subject to a forensic order to The Park, there was no alternative but to accept her return,” the briefing note states.

“The initial indications from the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services were that they hoped to have addressed the staff concerns within one month.”

However, the inability to resolve the issue has now dragged on for nine months, impacting on the patient who has a long history of assaulting staff.

“The patient has been managed in secure settings at this hospital for several years previously,” the briefing note states.

“The experience is that management in a secure setting results in many more, not fewer injuries and assaults on staff.”

Mr Springborg said discussions were in progress with several organisations to take over the woman’s care.

“It really does raise the question about the most cost effective way of dealing with these sorts of issues,” Mr Springborg said.

As first appeared in Herald Sun, 1 October 2012

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