Claims that Tasmania has a greater shortage of psychiatrists than any other state are unquestionable, according to Mental Health Council of Tasmania chief executive Connie Digolis.
In a new report, analyst Martyn Goddard said Tasmania had a much higher prevalence of mental health risk, but that funding remained among the lowest in the country.
Based on data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the report found the rate in which psychiatrists were utilised in Tasmania remained almost 18 per cent below the national average.
It also showed Tasmania had the second lowest use of clinical psychologists, almost 15 per cent below the national average.
While acknowledging the difficulty in accurately gauging data surrounding mental health indicators, Ms Digolis said the report’s workforce insight was undeniable.
“We [Tasmania] are well below the national benchmark for access to psychologists and mental health nurses,” she said.
“There is absolutely no question to that, and the subsequent pressures it is putting on the system.
“I think it is positive that, through this report, Mr Goddard is bringing something to the table. Coming out with a suggestion and something conclusive we can look at.
“The next step becomes how does this information fit in with what is currently in place and knowing where the pressures are.”
The report, released on Sunday, was dismissed by Health Minister Michael Ferguson, who said the government was providing record funding of $104 million to mental health services.
Ms Digolis said while the state government had acknowledged increased mental health pressures in the budget, it was time to move beyond ‘just beds’.
“In many services, we can’t argue with where the pressures are and we are seeing that acknowledged at a government level,” she said.
“It is always difficult when we are looking at data – everyone can use the data to suit their own means.
“Our call now is not to focus on the perceived need for acute mental health beds – that is not a fix-all.
“We need investment in clinical and non-clinical support for mental health services in Tasmania. That will avoid the need for hospital visits in the first place.
“The failing isn’t just not having a bed for someone – the failing is doing nothing for that person before they get to that point.”
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