WA’s peak medical group has called an emergency meeting of psychiatrists to discuss concerns about a lack of resources to deal with mental health problems.
The Australian Medical Association said about 25 public psychiatrists were expected at next week’s meeting, which would discuss the State Government’s long-awaited 10-year mental health plan released yesterday.
The report recommends doubling beds by 2025 to deal with mental health, alcohol and drug problems, and more emphasis on community-based services rather than institutional care.
Although the blueprint is open for consultation until March, the Government has already accepted a key recommendation – the staged closing of the century-old Graylands psychiatric hospital.
This would be offset by more community-based services as well as prison-based forensic beds for people involved in the justice system.
Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said Graylands was “an outdated, institutionalised, old lunatic asylum” that would be replaced by smaller contemporary facilities. Most of the Mt Claremont site would be sold and money reinvested in services.
“There is no excuse in this day and age for us to be providing mental health services in a facility like this,” Mrs Morton said.
She said the “worst-case scenario” for the cost of the reforms was $600 million but she did not believe it would be that high.
The plan says the overhaul depends on the Government’s fiscal capacity and subject to normal budgetary processes, confirmed yesterday by Premier Colin Barnett who said financing would be done on a yearly basis.
WA Mental Health association president Alison Xamon welcomed the blueprint but was concerned about the waiting time for extra services such as acute and sub-acute forensic beds.
AMA WA president Michael Gannon said the plan lacked funding guarantees and did not address the acute shortage of psychiatrists.
He said Graylands should be closed but there would still be continuing demand for services for acutely unwell people as well as lower level care.
“We still don’t seem to have a plan with the dollars attached to fix the problems we have in WA,” Dr Gannon said.
This article first appeared on ‘The West Australian’ on 4 December 2014.