Mental health an ‘utter tragedy’ 

5 May 2021

Almost 1500 South Australians with mental health care needs were stuck for more than 24 hours in an emergency department in the past year to February, it has been revealed in State Parliament.

Peak health bodies, unions and the Opposition yesterday described the new figures as an “utter tragedy”, “absolutely appalling” and “discrimination” against those suffering from chronic mental health illness, The Advertiser reported.

Data tabled in Parliament yesterday showed 1446 mental health patients waited more than 24 hours in EDs for access to a bed from the start of the pandemic last March to February this year.

The new figures came 24 hours after all of the state’s major public hospitals reached catastrophic levels of overcrowding on Monday, with the Flinders Medical Centre issuing an “internal disaster” code.

One mental health patient yesterday had been waiting for 102 hours for a bed and others have been waiting in excess of 90 hours, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) told The Advertiser.

“These figures exemplify how broken the system is,” ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM was quoted in the newspaper.

“The Health Department’s own targets are that mental health patients should not be in the emergency for more than eight hours. Clearly that is being consistently and chronically breached,” she said.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists SA Branch committee chairman Dr Paul Furst told The Advertiser Adelaide’s three main hospitals were among the nation’s worst performing in National Emergency Access Targets.

“To put this into perspective for people, the numbers show that SA had more than 1,400 patients who waited for more than 24 hours for an inpatient bed over the last year – in contrast, the whole of the Victorian health system – not just mental health – had around 1,000,” he said.

“That is a state almost four times our size, which has just announced a billion-dollar investment in their mental health system due to it being deemed a ‘catastrophic failure’. If Victoria’s system is a catastrophic failure, what does that make ours?”

Read the full Advertiser story here.