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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 13 August 2015) . . Page.. 2833 ..

Health Directorate—schedule 1, part 1.11.

MRS JONES (Molonglo) (11.10): I am very pleased to stand and talk on this area of the budget—in particular, mental health, this important and evolving area—to highlight some of the key failings that the government has when it comes to the issue of mental health. We know that across Australia approximately one in every five Australians will experience serious mental illness in any 12-month period. That is nearly 20 per cent of our population, which is why getting the care in this area right and appropriate is so very important.

If we look back on the area of mental health here in the ACT over the last 12 months, we can see several areas that are lacking and in need of urgent attention. We have the adult mental health unit, which is struggling to be staffed and which, during this period, has been deemed unsafe at times for nursing staff and community teams, who have been under massive pressure for years.

In September last year, I moved a motion calling on the government to:

(a) review security and nurse safety of the Adult Mental Health Unit at TCH and for the review to be tabled in the Assembly no later than November 2014;

(b) update the Assembly on the program for, and implementation of, improvements in both March 2015 and August 2015;

(c) introduce permanent measures that will significantly reduce or prevent incidents of violence and abuse directed at staff; and

(d) adopt a model of care that serves employee safety as well as patient care, and that neither one be weighted as superior to the other.

Either the review was not done or not taken seriously or the government have no strong commitment to the safety and wellbeing of their valuable nursing staff within the facility. During estimates this year the government clearly stated that they are concerned about staffing, recruiting and retention. Ms Bracher stated that it was the “biggest corporate risk” that needed to be managed in this area.

We know from the provisional improvement notice that was served at the adult mental health unit last year that this facility is far from safe. The hardworking staff suffered 57 assaults in the facility in the 12 months leading up to July last year.

We also know from estimates that we have a rising seclusion rate in the AHMU and we have aggression going up. Seclusions, as I said, are going up. It is just not good enough for those who are doing the heavy lifting, caring for those in our community with mental health concerns, to be placed in danger, to be assaulted and then to face mental health concerns themselves. We need to do better than this. I understand that the department is planning to bring in something for managing aggression—a plan of some sort. That was explained during the estimates hearing, but will this plan actually make our nurses safe at work?

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