A vital program treating hundreds of patients with severe and complex mental health conditions in northern and northwest Tasmania remains without a doctor amid resignations due to staff shortages, an internal health department document said. clarified.
- Health workers union says public mental health services are left without doctors amid staff shortages and resignations
- Unions said mental health staff had drafted a letter to inform patients about the reduction in services, but had yet to receive approval to send it.
- Internal meeting documents show case manager resigned due to ‘stress of inconsistent staffing’
ACMHSN treats approximately 500 patients in communities or at home in northern and northwest Tasmania, keeping patients out of hospital to improve patient outcomes and reduce demand on emergency departments.
According to the minutes, no doctors will be assigned to case management for the next two weeks.
The team planned to rebook essential doctor appointments and cancel other doctor appointments over the next four weeks.
The team also drafted letters to patients and stakeholders, which have not yet been sent. Doctor’s appointments are only available in critical situations, non-essential appointments are canceled immediately, care adjustments are curtailed, and people can get prescriptions from their GPs.
Lucas Digney, assistant secretary of state for the Health and Social Services Union, said the team is seeking approval to send a letter to the Department of Health, but it was unclear if it would come.
“What clinicians want to do is to inform consumers and other stakeholders about the current situation and the fact that delays and wait times may occur due to these deficiencies.
Digney said the measures outlined in the letter have already been implemented.
“It’s a tough decision that clinicians have to make every day,” he said.
“This means that if a patient receiving care in the community suddenly needs additional support, there is no way to respond quickly. Or there is no way to process requests for mental health orders in a timely manner.”
A health ministry spokeswoman said in a statement that the letter was “a template in case we need it in the future.”
“For clarity, the letter is irrelevant and has not been sent,” they said.
Digney said the agency is trying to hide the fact that mental health services are “in a state that is embarrassing to admit.”
Manager quits due to ‘stress’
The minutes also said the case manager had recently resigned, “citing inconsistent physician stress as a factor in the decision.”
Digney said the service has had a “revolving door” of staff for the past three years, relying almost exclusively on Locam during that time.
“That means that every time the location changes, the approach from the medical staff changes,” he said.
“I’m sure people can understand that things get very difficult when the boss changes every few weeks, and that’s the situation this team faces.”
Team staff say a third of full-time equivalent positions remain vacant, many of which have not been filled in years.
According to the minutes, attendees agreed that “Mental Health Services executives need to intervene to advance the current recruitment.”
Digney said the situation showed it was time for the state government’s promised mental health reforms, some of which were being implemented in the South, and that it was time to reach the North. .
Digney said the situation was “intolerable” for the patient.
“It means they don’t get the support they need when they need it, which means they are more likely to be hospitalized.”
He said community-managed clients cost one-tenth as much as those who need to be managed in a ward.
“People can be confident that they will receive appropriate mental health care when they need it, and treatment that is appropriately triaged according to their level of need,” a Ministry of Health spokeswoman said.
ABC asked the department a number of questions, including:
- Can THS confirm that ACMHSN is in crisis due to lack of staff?
- Is the program safe and effective for patients?
- Meeting transcripts show a case manager resigning recently, citing inconsistent doctor stress as a factor. What is THS doing to better support program staff to prevent further retirements?
We have reached out to the agency for further comment.