Box Hill Hospital: Treatment of emergency mental health patients ‘disgraceful’
The Victorian Health Services Performance Report revealed that between October and December last year, 45 patients waited more than eight hours to be admitted to a mental health bed at Box Hill.
This compared with just 18 patients waiting more than eight hours during the same period in 2010.
The trend is not limited to Box Hill Hospital. More than 765 emergency mental health patients waited longer than eight hours in emergency departments across the state – an increase of more than 25 per cent on the previous quarter.
Opposition mental health spokesman Wade Noonan labelled the statistics as ‘‘a disgraceful set of numbers for the Baillieu government’’.
‘‘These figures demonstrate that there are simply not enough acute beds to service the number of mentally ill people in Melbourne’s east,’’ Mr Noonan said.
But the Minister for Mental Health, Mary Wooldridge, said that in many cases a lack of beds was not the problem.
She said some mental health patients needed to be kept in emergency departments ‘‘to be treated for their physical and medical needs, or for safe transport to an available mental health bed’’.
Waiting times had risen because of an increase in both regular and emergency mental health patient numbers, she said.
‘‘Preliminary advice is that the March quarter shows a significant improvement in the timeliness of admission to a mental health bed from the emergency department,’’ she said.
Eastern Health’s Rebecca Johnson said patients arriving at Box Hill Hospital’s emergency department were immediately assessed by triage staff before receiving specialist care.
She said Eastern Health had introduced initiatives to improve access to mental health services.
‘‘These include improved response times by having nurses work closely with police and the introduction of our Brief Intervention Clinic at Ringwood East, which focuses on self-harm,’’ she said.