By Sally McGlew
STAFF from the mental health services in Midland walked off the job last week in protest at the lack of equipment and services for young people dealing with mental health issues.
Health Services Union WA Secretary Naomi McCrae said the day of action had been called as a last resort for members who stopped work across Perth at eight different sites.
In Midland those gathered in front of offices in Sayer Street heard the system was in crisis.
“Children are in need there is increased demand and some children are critically ill,” said Ms McCrae.
She told those gathered that there was more strike action planned for future dates.
“Children are waiting eight weeks for their first treatment,” she said.
“It’s too long, it’s very serious.”
Ms McCrae said for children in an acute state they need to be in the mental health ward in hospitals however there were an additional 75 more staff needed to treat the number of children presenting to the mental health services.
Ms McCrae said there were 122 children being treated in the Swan area alone.
“Children are being turned away,” she said.
“WA’s mental health service is failing those who need it most.
“More children will die and that’s how serious it is and our members feel ignored.”
Perth emergency departments have seen a 403 per cent increase in self-harm, suicide risk and attempted suicide presentations in under 13s over the past decade.
“We lose staff due to burnout and with more Code Yellow events (which means stop business as usual) what was a rare event is now becoming common and the health department just expect it will happen.
AMA President (WA) Dr Andrew Miller spoke in support of the HSUA walk out because he said he is concerned that code yellows were a rare event and are now becoming routine.
“We are 400 or 500 beds behind and need to catch up,” Dr Miller said.
“This system is being mismanaged by the state government.
“We expect to have mental health patients in the system and that’s the responsibility of the state government as well.”
Health Minister Roger Cook said last week that the system was under pressure but was working as expected.
But the AMA is calling for a crisis summit to resolve the issue
WA Liberal leader David Honey said a lack of staff was a major issue at all hospitals
Ms McCrae said a report into Kate Savage’s death offered seven recommendations, but only one had been actioned.
She said mental health workers feared more children would die.
Ms McCrae said in March alone, staff handled 92 referrals in the Midland office of the Swan Valley referral centre.
“That is too much for this service,” she said.
Ms McCrae said taking industrial action was the “last resort,” but workers were desperate for help.
A Health Department spokesman said long-stay patients were requiring beds for an extended period of time.
He said this added to the congestion.