Page 3848 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 19 October 2005

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MR CORBELL: I thank Mr Smyth for the question. Regrettably, violence and aggression towards staff are not confined to the mental health area of ACT Health. We are seeing increased instances of violence and aggression towards staff in hospitals generally. That is a matter of serious concern to me as minister, and certainly to the managers and people with direct employment responsibility in ACT Health.

It is a fundamental occupational health and safety issue. For that reason we are increasing the level of support to health care staff to assist them to manage violent or aggressive patients. We are also taking steps, through the development of a new violence policy that I have recently approved, which outlines an incremental series of steps to respond to violence and aggression in a care setting. It provides staff with a clear protocol of responses, which can ultimately lead to particular sanctions to deter and prevent violence and aggression. If that is not possible, if that does not succeed, the protocol is designed to effectively ensure that that person no longer presents a threat to staff in a health care environment.

We take these issues very seriously. We have new policies in place. We have additional funding in place to provide additional security to staff. We continue to monitor the situation very closely.

Mental health

MR GENTLEMAN: My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Minister, you just touched on Not for Service: Experiences of Injustice and Despair in Mental Health Care in Australia, the report released today of the consultations by the Mental Health Council of Australia and the Brain and Mind Research Institute, in association with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Would you advise the Assembly how the ACT fares in this report.

MR CORBELL: This is a major report by the three bodies that Mr Gentleman mentions: the Mental Health Council of Australia, the Brain and Mind Research Institute and HREOC, the commonwealth Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. This report is different from many other HREOC reports, in that it relies on anecdotal feedback as a way of sending the message that we continue to need to address issues surrounding the care and treatment of people in Australia with a mental illness. It reviewed consumer and carer experiences of care against the national standards for mental health services. Its goal was to capture the current critical themes in mental health care.

In terms of how the ACT fared, I am really pleased that the report, whilst certainly highlighting continuing concerns and criticisms of care in the ACT—no different from those criticisms in many other parts of the country; indeed, in all parts of the country—acknowledged the ACT government’s commitment to improve mental health services. For the information of members, I highlight some of those issues. For example, it states that:

Over the past three years, the ACT Government has committed substantial energy to devising a new framework within which to improve the mental health and wellbeing for those living in the ACT.

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