State Liberals are warning that the chronic shortage of mental health beds and the downgrading of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to a second-class Emergency Department threatens ongoing chaos at both the current RAH and NRAH Emergency Departments.
“The Weatherill Government’s planned cuts to hospital services will not fix a dysfunctional mental health system that is fuelling chronic access block in our emergency departments,” said Shadow Health Minister Stephen Wade.
“The Weatherill Government has failed to deliver on an independent commission and its reform plan for mental health. Mental health patients languish and other patients can’t get access.”
David Pope from SASMOA expressed his surprise that the Weatherill Government’s Transforming Health process ignores mental health and its “very unwell” patients:
“They're not getting the services that they need to return to health and become well again and it's creating enormous pressures on emergency departments which flow onto the rest of the system.”1
Even if only the most serious cases go from TQEH to RAH that will mean our overcrowded RAH emergency department will have to deal with 6,000 more patients – an 8% increase in admissions.
“While other hospitals are being promised investment to help them cope with change, the RAH has not been promised an additional dollar,” said Mr Wade.“
Adelaide’s ED’s won’t work until our mental health and aged care services are operating effectively and integrating with our hospitals.
“As long as the Weatherill Government fails to address the shortage of mental health beds, people with mental health issues will end up back in the ED. Direct admission to mental health wards can’t change that.
”The Weatherill Government’s proposal to downgrade the TQEH Emergency Department flies in the face of the advice of emergency medicine experts:
“There can be no reduction of services / presentations at peripheral hospital Emergency Departments until there is a resolution to access block (including Mental Health) at all core hospitals.”2
Specialist mental health services were ignored by the Transforming Health process.
At 9am on Friday 6 February 2015, the average waiting time at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Emergency Department was Code White – more people awaiting treatment (35) compared with capacity (31).
At 9am on Friday 6 February 2015, in Royal Adelaide Hospital’s Emergency Department there were six mental health patients who had completed their treatment and were waiting for a bed, three have been waiting for more than 24 hours – that is one in ten treatment places in the Emergency Department.
1. ABC Radio National. 6 February 2015, "Mental health left out of health reforms in SA," PM.
2. Australasian College of Emergency Medicine. 2014. Submission in response to the Transforming Health Discussion Paper (Submission No. 84).