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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 15 February 2018) . . Page.. 289 ..

MR RATTENBURY: As I said in my other answer, I can assure the Assembly that the adult mental health unit is adequately staffed. In terms of whether positions are permanent or not, there are locums working at the adult mental health unit. That is a well-known fact. I think the real question is not whether somebody is working full time or on a locum basis; that question is secondary to whether we have enough staff with suitable clinical qualifications. I can assure the Assembly that we do. Those locums filling those positions are very well experienced and very well qualified.

In terms of the apparent discrepancy about full-time staff or not, I think the difference between the position of ASMOF and Health is that somebody has resigned but is still in the job; they have not left. Somebody is still there who is full time, but they are leaving shortly. That clarifies that.

I can also let the Assembly know that two senior registrars are expected to receive their fellowships in mid-March this year and will commence work in the adult mental health unit as full-time employees. Work is being done to boost those positions, just as there is a range of other recruitment activity going on. As I said earlier, we have now increased the full-time equivalent medical staff overseeing patients to 11 compared to 8.5 in July 2017. I think this reflects the fact that ACT Health is very focused on recruiting new staff.

The recruitment environment is difficult. On the question of morale, this is a challenging area to work in. Acute inpatient units are difficult places to work in and they are difficult places to recruit people to. But ACT Health is working extremely hard to do that.

MS LAWDER: Minister, what impact is the ongoing shortage of psychiatrists and low morale having on the level of clinical care at the Canberra Hospital for people with mental health problems?

MR RATTENBURY: Staff continue to operate in very dedicated ways. They are committed to their jobs. They are working hard to provide the best possible care they can for people who are in difficult circumstances, and it is a difficult working environment. As I have said several times today, the adult mental health unit is adequately staffed. I go back to the distinction I drew in my earlier response. It is not a question of whether people are full time or a locum. The key question is whether staff have suitable clinical qualifications. My firm advice from ACT Health is that they do.

MRS DUNNE: Minister, why are there ongoing issues around continuity, morale and the attractiveness of ACT positions compared to other states and territories?

MR RATTENBURY: I would be interested to hear on what basis Mrs Dunne makes that comparison. It makes it very difficult for me to answer. It is a highly subjective view that she has put. It is not one that I think I can respond to. My earlier remarks were about the fact that we are actively recruiting. We are successfully recruiting into ACT Health.

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