A child has spent almost 60 hours at the Launceston General Hospital emergency department, after presenting with acute mental illness.
The 11-year-old boy, who attempted self harm, was brought to hospital on Wednesday morning. It is understood he had no physical medical conditions, and was brought to the department for treatment for behavioural issues and acute mental illness.
The boy remained in the emergency department under the supervision of police and security staff on Thursday evening.
“The Tasmanian Health Service will not breach the confidentiality of a patient by publicly discussing their treatment without their explicit consent, and is concerned that such details are being published without any reference to the patient or their family, who's right to privacy is supported under the Charter of Health Rights issued under the Health Complaints Act 1995,” a THS spokesman said.
“In general terms, whenever patients with complex conditions and needs present for treatment, the THS and its dedicated staff do everything possible - including work with other agencies if required - to develop and deliver the very best of care.”
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmania branch met with emergency department representatives on Friday following escalating concerns over emergency department overcrowding.
Branch secretary Emily Shepherd said the case had caused significant stress to staff.
“We understand from our members that no plan of care for this boy is expected to be met before 6pm [Friday],” she said.
“A situation like this puts emergency department staff in an untenable situation.
“They don’t actually have the support or medical input to support this patient.”
The Human Services Minister and the Health Minister have all been contacted for comment.
Mental Health Council of Tasmania chief executive Connie Digolis acknowledged the government’s commitment to improving mental health services, but said the issue went beyond just beds in hospitals.
"Yes, we need to be doing more now because we shouldn't be hearing about cases like this," she said.
"No-one should ever find themselves in a position like this, let alone a vulnerable young child.
"We should be doing more in the interim."
In December an inquiry into acute health in Tasmania found that child and adolescent inpatient mental health services were lacking, resulting in “sub-optimal care for young people”.
At the time, Health Minister Michael Ferguson stated the government was addressing these inadequacies.
At Tuesday’s budget estimates hearing, Mr Ferguson said the government had a “very strong” mental health agenda and were serious about addressing the unmet demand.
This included an investment of $95 million into mental heath care over six years and the opening of LGH’s paediatric ward 4K, including eight new beds.
Funding for eight new adolescent mental health beds at Launceston will not start until 2019-20, due to the redevelopment of the children’s ward.
On Tuesday Mr Ferguson said that the 4K beds were not all for mental health patients, but were adolescent beds in the paediatric zone.
Ms Shepherd said the only initiative so far agreed to was a 12 month trial of a psychiatric emergency nurse on late shifts at the LGH.
Emergency Department concerns: ANMF
Ms Shepherd said as of Friday, more than 20 patients were awaiting in-patient admission at the LGH emergency department.
This included one patient who had been waiting more than 90 hours for an in-patient bed.
Ms Shepherd said ANMF members had sent almost 1000 postcards to Mr Ferguson, calling on him to permanently staff and open additional in-patient beds at the LGH since industrial action was launched in March.
“It is time for the minister and government to step up and take accountability for this situation, the local THS management are constraint by allocated budgets and are unable to implement additional strategies to solve these issues without additional resources,” she said.
“Longer term strategies to increase capacity are welcomed but are doing nothing to solve the current concerns and the hands-off approach by the minister and the government is disrespectful to our members, but to patients in the LGH emergency department who deserve to have timely access to quality care.”
- Lifeline 13 11 14