Posted on 21. Dec, 2012 in News

A decision by the Baillieu Government to withdraw funding for a mental health workforce strategy to attract and retain psychiatric nurses and clinicians has contributed to a shutdown of beds at the Upton House Inpatient Unit in Box Hill, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Mental Health, Wade Noonan said today.

Mr Noonan said the decision by Eastern Health to close 20 per cent of their inpatient beds until mid-February 2013 had been solely caused by staff shortages.

“While everyone is off playing the blame game on health some people with serious mental illnesses could be shut out of vital treatment over the Christmas period,” Mr Noonan said.

“The timing of this decision is extremely unfortunate because the Christmas period can create greater demand and pressures on our mental health services.

“Reducing the number of mental health beds in Melbourne’s east will place greater pressure on hospital emergency departments, ambulance services and police.

“Minister Wooldridge has a responsibility to keep these beds open.”

Mr Noonan said the Baillieu Government had axed Labor’s Shaping the future: the Victorian mental health workforce strategy and shelved a $2.4 million investment to establish a Mental Health Workforce Development and Innovation Institute.

“One of the first decisions the Baillieu Government made was to cut a $2.4 million program to address staff shortages in our mental health workforce,” Mr Noonan said.

“The impact of cutting a program to address staff shortages in mental health is now being felt with these devastating bed closures at Eastern Health.

Mr Noonan said that the Labor Opposition had warned the Baillieu Government about the looming staff crisis in mental health following the May State Budget earlier this year.

“Labor warned the Baillieu Government earlier this year about the dangers associated with ignoring the need to invest in mental health recruitment and retention strategies,” Mr Noonan said.

“Minister Wooldridge also ignored calls from the Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) to address the issue of staff shortages during their protracted enterprise bargaining dispute.”

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