THERE has been a sharp rise in waiting times for people seeking help for mental health issues at Bendigo Hospital.
Figures released by the state opposition show 39 mentally ill patients waited more than eight hours to be admitted to the hospital from April to June.
That’s a rise from four in the same period last year.
The hospital’s reported waiting times were ranked eighth-worst in the state and the worst in regional Victoria.
Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said leaving people waiting for so long was reprehensible.
“Mental health patients are some of the most disadvantaged in the community and they need all the help they can get,” she said. “Things are getting much worse at Bendigo Health.”
Opposition parliamentary secretary for mental health Wade Noonan said the figures were concerning.
“In April to June last year there were only four patients who waited longer than eight hours to access a bed,” he said.
“Twelve months later that figure’s jumped tenfold to 39.
“Mental health services in the greater Bendigo area are not coping with the demand.”
Mr Noonan noted that figures were not available for people who waited for treatment but left before they could be helped.
“There’s probably similar numbers presenting and not waiting... eight hours is a very long time for anyone.”
A spokesperson for the hospital said there was a greater demand for psychiatric services and the hospital was working to ensure patients were treated in a timely manner.
While not addressing Bendigo specifically, a government spokesperson said a record amount had been spent on mental health this year.
“The Coalition has already invested in more than 140 new 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 statewide mental health bed co-ordinator – another Coalition election commitment – is expected to improve access and reduce waiting times.”