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Health and Mental Health Services

Extract from Hansard: Tuesday, 13 October 2009

MS A.S. CARLES (Fremantle) [3.36 pm]: I would like to voice my concerns about the threat of government cuts to mental health services in Fremantle specifically. The services offered at Fremantle Hospital, at both Alma and Ellen Streets, must be retained; indeed, additional funding is required. This is care for some of the most vulnerable members of our society who sometimes do not have a voice. I have seen spreadsheets today from the Department of Health showing the impacts of the government’s proposed intention to cut 13 per cent from the health system. The spreadsheets show clearly the impact if these cuts proceed. The cuts in Fremantle are even greater than what the opposition thought: up to 19.7 FTE jobs to Fremantle Mental Health Service will go as part of the three per cent efficiency dividend, and a further 29.8 FTEs will go as part of the so-called sustainable performance strategy, which is a very interesting way of describing an additional 10 per cent cut to FTEs!
Mr R.H. Cook: Sustainable!
Ms A.S. CARLES: Yes, it is a so-called sustainable strategy! We are talking about cutting nearly 50 FTEs from Fremantle Mental Health Service alone. Clearly this huge level of cuts will compromise patient care, and it is nonsense to suggest it will not. The spreadsheets I am referring to show that in addition to this there are hundreds of proposed job cuts for the whole Fremantle group, specifically 46.3 FTEs for the three per cent efficiency dividend, and 229.8 FTEs for the additional 10 per cent sustainable performance strategy. That is more than 270 possible full-time job cuts for the Fremantle group, in addition to 50 FTE losses from Fremantle Mental Health Service. That is a loss of 320 full-time jobs in Fremantle.
As well as this, I have been told that there is a directive that beds are to be shifted from Fremantle to Rockingham; services will be diverted away from Fremantle.
Is it possible to get additional time?
Dr K.D. Hames: No!
Ms A.S. CARLES: The spreadsheets show that 95 FTEs will be shifted from Fremantle to the Rockingham redevelopment. I wanted to put constituent stories on the record today, but I do not have time to do that. I have been in touch with staff at Alma and Ellen Streets, Fremantle. They say they are working in a climate of fear. There has been systemic bullying over several months from departmental heads who have instructed that cuts must be made. Clinicians have been put in untenable position. One psychiatrist has told me how staff are distressed at what they see as clinically unsafe work practices. The Fremantle-based psychiatrist told me that it is not uncommon for there to be seven acutely suicidal people on a priority waiting list at any given time at Fremantle Hospital, with no-one to assign them to. There is no fat to cut. Front-line services have already been affected by hiring freezes.
I note today that the first two people who are facing mandatory jail terms for assaulting public officers are mentally ill. The irony is not lost on me. Not only are we closing facilities and mental health services for people, particularly in Fremantle, but also we are going to lock them up for six months if they lash out, possibly because their treatment has been compromised by government cuts. Every day people with mental health issues are showing up in my office in Fremantle seeking help as a result of these proposed cuts. My staff are being diverted, and I will be seeking further assistance if this continues. We cannot ration mental health. We cannot continue to undercut these services and we cannot allow staff to feel under threat from bureaucrats calling for their jobs to go. We must stop this climate of fear in the health department.

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