Politics Sector News — 30 May 2016

Two key mental health services in Adelaide’s northern suburbs will shut within weeks following the axing of a multi-million-dollar Federal Government funding agreement.

A forensic health unit at Oakden, which helps mental health patients in the criminal justice system, and a walk-in service at Salisbury, were both funded as part of a National Partnerships Agreement worth almost $5 million.

But that five-year funding deal has expired and State Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos received written confirmation from the Federal Health Department that it will not be renewed.

“[Federal Health Minister] Sussan Ley hasn’t even had the courtesy to write to me myself and advise me she’s cut nearly $5 million from mental health care services,” Ms Vlahos said.

“That will affect, say, the Salisbury walk-in clinic. That’s about 1,400 people a year who are able to access that service nine to nine, 365 days a year.

“That service will have to close on June 30.

“[They’re] putting lives at risk in the way they’re treating people in South Australia right now.”

Ms Vlahos said the State Government would not be able to cover the cost of the services.

The shut-down of the Oakden and Salisbury services will cost 25 jobs.

“We will not be able to provide the same level of care that we have in the past but we are working to endeavour to support those people when they need it most,” Ms Vlahos said.

Other mental health services facing closure by July include 24 crisis respite beds, 10 in-home beds, 20 rehabilitation beds at Whyalla and Mount Gambier, and an after-hours acute community mental health service.

About 80 jobs are tied to those services and are funded under a $15-million Commonwealth agreement which, according to the State Government, is also under threat.

Decision will put hospitals under pressure: SASMOA

Ms Ley said the SA Government has had five years to “plan for this transition”.

“It’s more a reflection on the mess the Weatherill Government is making of health that they’ve been caught out panicking at the last minute,” she said.

“Ms Vlahos would be better focussed on asking the Premier and Health Minister why South Australia is no longer committed to funding mental health services or hospital rehabilitation and respite beds.”

But Bernadette Mulholland from the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association (SASMOA) said the decision not to renew funding would result in the loss of “critical services” and put more pressure on hospital emergency departments.

“As we move towards winter it is really going to put a strain on the system,” she said.

“It will put a strain on mental health patients who are looking for services quickly and efficiently, but won’t be able to find them.

“What we’ll actually see is that we’ll have probably more mental health patients presenting at the emergency departments but with more acute symptoms.”

This article first appeared on ‘ABC‘ on 28 May 2016.

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