Question without notice
My question is for the Minister for Mental Health.
Minister, the front page of the Shepparton News last week featured allegations that the child and adolescent mental health service at Goulburn Valley Health was at rock bottom and that there were serious concerns about the level of service being provided and about morale in the unit.
I know that health professionals in the community have raised concerns about the quality of and the access to care for children for a number of years. Attempts at advocacy and dialogue were ignored. Minister, what steps will you take to ensure that proper and appropriate child and adolescent mental health services are provided in my electorate?
Mr Foley, Minister for Mental Health
Can I thank the member for Shepparton for her question, which now places her ahead of the entire opposition in terms of having asked questions of this portfolio when it comes to this Parliament. The member for Shepparton’s question is extremely relevant to some substantial changes that have been going on in the staffing areas of the Goulburn Valley mental health area. The member for Shepparton is right: this was the subject of a front-page article in the Shepparton News of the weekend just gone. But prior to that we had been made aware through processes of regular review that the Department of Health and Human Services carries out on all of our child and adolescent mental health areas as to their performance, and there have been some substantial changes in staffing arrangements within the Goulburn Valley child and adolescent mental health area.
With that information made available to me some time ago, I did ask the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, an independent office set up through legislative provisions of this Parliament, to undertake a review and an analysis of how the performance of that health service, particularly in its child and adolescent mental health area, was going. The Office of the Chief Psychiatrist has conducted a number of interviews. It has had a number of meetings with Goulburn Valley mental health’s child and adolescent mental health unit, and as recently as yesterday I met with the chief psychiatrist about the progress of his report.
We need to understand — and I can give the honourable member this assurance — that the staffing and the delivery of service for the Goulburn Valley child and adolescent mental health remains fully staffed and fully resourced. Through the initial assessment of the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, all the patients, young and adolescent, who need to get the triage service delivered to them are having that delivered. Clearly there are, however, issues around churn of staff, and there are wider issues going to the performance of that health service.
I can assure the honourable member that we are working hard with the leadership of the health service, with the board and more importantly with the independent Office of the Chief Psychiatrist to make sure not just that the quality of service is there but that our extra $57.3 million that we allocated in this year’s budget to child and adolescent mental health right across our state is delivered in a way that makes sure that the young children and the young people of your community and the whole state get the best possible service delivery they expect.
Minister, issues such as I have described often raise questions relating to governance, supervision and the culture of an organisation. What steps are being taken to address these broader issues within the health service?
Yes, the honourable member for Shepparton is quite correct. These performance issues — whilst we are confident they are not undermining the level of performance in child and adolescent mental health — speak to some wider issues about how health services are delivered. That is why, with the support of the Minister for Health, who of course is my co-minister in these areas, she and I have initiated an inquiry into these allegations and the chief medical officer is attending the health service tomorrow to undertake the preliminary inquiries and to make sure that there is a full investigation into these allegations. That will be dealt with at arm’s length from government and at arm’s length from the health service by Susan Zeitz. Ms Zeitz is an experienced lawyer who recently undertook a similar investigation into the Ballarat health services. I look forward to the reports from that review. I would be more than happy to brief the honourable member, with the Minister for Health, about that review.