Tasmanian musician weighs into state of RHH mental health care, detailing his experiences
Christopher Coleman says waiting for a mental health bed can be the biggest battle. (Facebook: Christopher Coleman)
A well-known Tasmanian musician has revealed his experience of waiting for mental health care in the Royal Hobart Hospital, after concerns were raised by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) over extensive wait times.
New figures revealed mental health patients at the Royal can wait as long as six days in the emergency department before being admitted to the mental health ward or discharged.
Hobart-born songwriter and musician Christopher Coleman has had a “handful” of experiences related to mental health in the Royal’s emergency department, some his own and some supporting friends.
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Mr Coleman said in one incident about 18 months ago he was so unwell he called an ambulance about 11:00am, but despite being admitted by doctors, he waited until 4:00am the following day for a bed on the mental health ward.
“The problem is that when you are that unwell and you get to the emergency department, and then you’ve got the biggest battle of all in the patience of waiting it out with the LED [lights] and the hard surfaces and the 40 other people, sick and frustrated,” he said.
Mr Coleman said he was glad new figures on emergency wait times had been revealed because the community needed to keep having the conversation.
“You’re held up in an ambulance in the waiting dock for 12 hours to then get to the emergency department where you then can spend up to four or five days,” he said.
“And they’re not able to let you go because you’re at risk.”
Christopher Coleman says he is at the capacity he was 18 months before being admitted. (Facebook: Christopher Coleman)
But Mr Coleman said once an acute mental health patient had endured the emergency department wait, they could rest under the care of mental health professionals until they were healthy enough to leave.
Mr Coleman is back working at the capacity he was about 18 months before being admitted.
“Recovery is absolutely possible, and recovery can be made easier with more beds,” he said.
Figures released by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) showed Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT had the worst emergency wait times.
‘The Health Minister needs to listen to frontline workers’
Labor health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said the figures showed Tasmania’s hospitals did not have the capacity to cope with increased demand.
“It’s very concerning to see that Tasmania is amongst the worst performing states,” she said.
“Sadly, it’s not surprising because we’ve known for a long time that our hospitals are in crisis.
“It’s time the Minister [Michael Ferguson] stopped and listened to frontline workers, listened to the clinicians, the nurses who are working in this environment about what the problems are, and time he took some real action to address these problems.”
Independent Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest said it was time the Government listened to clinicians on the ground and take a comprehensive approach to dealing with bed block issues.
Ms Forrest said that would include ensuring there was adequate mental health care available in the community.
‘We’re making record investments in health’
Premier Will Hodgman said his Government did need to ensure patients could be treated sooner.
He said measures such as keeping the Mersey Hospital open, investing in the North West Regional Hospital and rebuilding the Royal Hobart Hospital would help to ensure more people could receive healthcare in their communities.
“We do recognise increased demand in our hospital system, that’s why we’re investing record amounts,” he said.
“We are recruiting more staff, we’re opening more beds and our goal is to ensure that all Tasmanians have access to health services that are comparable with patients interstate.”
The Royal Hobart Hospital Staff Association (RHHSA) said they wanted work on the fit-out for psychiatry in the new K-Block building to stop, and the entire plan for K Block to be reassessed.
RHHSA chairman Frank Nicklason said keeping psychiatry in the demountable J-Block building rather than moving it to K-Block as is planned, would allow psychiatry to eventually absorb 22 additional beds currently used as general medical in J-Block, and would also provide space for the intensive care unit to be located in K-Block, beneath the helipad.
Dr Nicklason said there would also be flow-on effects that could help ease pressure on the emergency department.
The State Government has applied to the Hobart City Council to retain the demountable J-Block building until 2025.