North coast residents with mental health problems are receiving second-rate treatment as a result of the casualisation of the nursing workforce, according to NSW Greens health spokesperson Dr John Kaye and Lismore candidate Adam Guise.
The pair held a press conference outside Lismore Base Hospital yesterday to highlight the issue.
Mr Guise said he was ‘deeply concerned’ by reports of permanent nursing positions being left vacant ‘while increasing numbers of casual staff are being deployed into mental health wards on the north coast.’
‘This is an area with a major mental health challenge that is being let down by the Liberal National government,’ Mr Guise said.
‘Hospital admissions per head of population for self harm in the Northern NSW Local Health District are occurring 38 per cent more frequently than for the rest of the state,’ he added
‘Continuity of care is critical for mental health patients.
‘Permanent staffing provides patients with consistent care.
‘Health professionals with job security create a more stable environment for both patients and staff,’ Mr Guise said.
Dr Kaye accused the state government of ‘trying to hide the reality from the north coast community’.
He added that the coalition government ‘keeps [its] health workforce statistics under lock and key.
‘It looks like costs have been cut by replacing permanent nursing staff with causals, despite the impact on mental health patients,’ Dr Kaye said.
‘Best practice mental health care and high levels of casual staff are not consistent.
‘Local MP Thomas George should contact Mental Health Minister Jai Rowell and tell his community the truth about the rising number of casual mental health nurses,’ Dr Kaye said.
Mr Guise added, ‘The Liberal National government must come clean on the practice of replacing permanent nursing staff with casuals.
‘Like other care providers, the mental health care workforce can least afford to be made victims of workplace casualisation and high staff turnover.’
The pair said the 2011-12 Northern NSW LHD self-harm hospitalisation rate of 178/100,000 was significantly higher than the NSW average of 129/100,000 in NSW.