Mental health wait times revealed in new figures from government

Mental health patients in Launceston are waiting up to 3.8 days in the emergency department for treatment, according to new figures from the state government.

Health Minister Michael Ferguson provided the statistics to independent Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest, after she submitted a question on notice in a budget estimates hearing in June.

The figures cover the financial year to March 31, 2018, revealing that the longest a mental health patient had to wait in the ED at the Launceston General Hospital was 3.8 days.

The longest a patient had to wait in the ED at the Mersey Community Hospital was 1.6 days.

At the North West Regional Hospital, it was 1.3 days.

Meanwhile, at the Royal Hobart Hospital, the longest a patient waited was 5.9 days.

The release of the figures follows reports of an 11-year-old boy spending almost 2.5 days in the ED at the LGH.

The boy had attempted self-harm, prior to presenting to the ED.

He is said to have had no physical ailments, and was brought to the ED for mental health reasons.

In December, a parliamentary inquiry into acute health in Tasmania found that child and adolescent in-patient mental health services were lacking.

The committee overseeing the inquiry released an interim report on its findings.

It stated there was an ongoing risk of “adverse patient outcomes” in the Tasmanian health system.

Opposition health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said the latest figures were “quite frankly shocking”.

“It is yet another sign that the health system is in absolute crisis,” she said.

“It is long past time that the minister acknowledged the crisis he created and started listening to clinicians.”

As at March 31, median wait times for mental health patients in EDs in Tasmanian hospitals are as follows:

  • RHH: 4.4 hours
  • LGH: 4.9 hours
  • MCH: 2.1 hours
  • NWRH: 2.9 hours

Acting Health Minister Elise Archer acknowledged there was pressure on Tasmania’s public health system.

But she said the 2018-19 state budget commenced a $95 million plan to build a better mental health system, including new beds and specialist facilities for children and adolescents.

“We know there is currently demand pressure, but these initiatives will all help to reduce hospitalisation and improve patient flow at our hospitals,” Ms Archer said.

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