As details of the exact cuts to the Cairns Base Hospital and regional health care start to come into focus, it would seem that a key area of attack has been on the Integrated Mental Health, and allied services area. This to a community that has been struggling with inadequate resources for community mental health care for decades, in a state that has shortchanged mental health care under the previous ALP government.
And this just following what Cueball MacKenzie has called "the most courageous statement from a Member of Parliament in any western democracy since Cleisthenes in 540 BC". A statement that on inspection is fluff and the usual Gavin "Don't Rape Me" King journo-talk. Delivered haltingly to an empty house chamber after 9 PM. The King statement notes the enormous shortfall in community mental health treatment options in Cairns - homelessness, alcohol, drug, and toxic substance abuse, mental health and rehab facilities. This despite King being a junior-henchman in the Diane Forsythe "get-square" organised by Federal Minister of Blogs Warren Entsch. This forced a long-running mental health facility closed and no replacement has ever been forthcoming.
But instead of increased resourcing or even a stab at "reorganisation" as "UnSir" Bob Norman called it, the LNP has gone thru the Integrated Mental Health department with a meataxe with no rhyme or reason.
- ATODS - (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs Services). CLOSED
- HASP - CLOSED (more info below)
- QUEENSLAND POLICE - Mental Health Intervention Program - CLOSED
- BREASTSCREEN QLD - four staff redundant
- HHOT (Homeless Health Outreach Team) - CLOSED
We've also got reports that "team leaders" in other programs have been sacked - no attempt to "put them back on the front line", these higher-paid clinicians have been shown the door. In one, the FIRRST team (Far North Queensland Intensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Support Team), staff can't understand how they're supposed to operate without management. This team provides direct care to the ill after they're released from the hospital, and their intervention and monitoring is important not just for the patients but for community safety.
And of course with these cuts slashing broadly across community support services, the result will be continued overload of the Mental Health inpatient ward at Cairns Base Hospital despite the gracious addition of 2 additional beds by Anna Bligh. This then requires patients to be held in ED beds, forcing more ambulances to ramp with their patients.
And forget the needed adolescent inpatient facility that the community has been campaigning for - a campaign supported in public statements by Gavin King. You can't run a hospital without people, and we're sacking the skilled ones. Another failure for the Member of Cairns.
Finally, questions are being raised about the early departure of the Mental Health Service Director Kevin Freele. Operational and performance issues have been obvious to management in the now-shuttered HASP program, which was outsourced to Victoria-based Pathways Rehabilitation and Support Services Ltd. Questions are now being raised about financial ties between this contractor and Cairns Base management, with apparently a "heads-up" warning issued to some by insiders.
More soon . . .
We again however raise a basic question of conflict-of-interest. Hospital Boards should NOT have any members who rely on private health care instead of the public system.