Labor slams Bendigo's mental health wait list

BENDIGO West MP Maree Edwards has criticised the city’s mental health bed waiting list, labelling it the worst in regional Victoria.

Ms Edwards said documents obtained by Labor under Freedom of Information showed that mental health patients at Bendigo Health were waiting longer for a bed than anywhere else in regional Victoria.

She said that at 71 per cent, the figures revealed the hospital fell short of the statewide 80 per cent admission target.

The FOI documents state that 29 per cent of mental health patients were waiting longer than eight hours for a bed after presenting at Bendigo hospital’s emergency department during the 2011-12 second quarter.

“Closing the 24-hour mental health advice line, disbanding the mental health reform council, reducing the indexation payments to more than 100 community mental health providers, and scrapping the previous Labor government’s workforce strategy have all resulted in mental health patients missing out on hospital beds and vital community follow up treatment,” Ms Edwards said.

“Before the last election Mr Baillieu and Mr Ryan said that people suffering mental illness deserved timely access to acute care services.”

A state government spokesman said that although Bendigo scored among the lowest in the regional sector, it remained above the statewide average of 66 per cent for the 2011-12 second quarter. 

The spokesman said the figures had already been published on the Department of Health website and were available to the public without Freedom of Information clearance.

“The Coalition has invested in more than 140 mental health beds, including new short-stay units at five hospitals, which will directly address significant emergency department pressures,” he said.

“The opening of these beds in conjunction with the new state-wide mental health bed coordinator, another Coalition election commitment, is expected to improve access and reduce waiting times.”

A Bendigo Health spokesman said a review had found the statistics to be unreliable due to work bans conducted at the time by psychiatric nurses during EBA negotiations.

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