Three months after an inquiry into how a woman died unobserved in the mental health unit at Lismore Base Hospital, the state government has launched a survey for carers of people with mental health conditions and another for ‘mental health consumers’.
The inquiry into the death of Miriam Merten pointed the finger at deep-seated cultural issues within the mental health system and overseen the move to a model of 24-hour supervision at mental health units.
Meanwhile the state government has commissioned an online carer survey, which it claims, will give ‘invaluable insight into mental health care in Lismore,’ describing it as ‘an Australian-first set to transform the patient experience across NSW’.
Lismore MP Thomas George (Nationals) said the new initiative, plus a similar one aimed at ‘mental health consumers’ would provide ‘accurate and timely feedback to the Northern NSW Local Health District about the services they provide’ and would ‘ultimately improve the care for people living with mental illness’.
‘Through extensive consultation with the public and local health districts the NSW Government has improved on the ground mental health services across the electorate,’ Mr George said.
‘Feedback from members of our community and their carers who come into contact with these mental health services is essential so we can continue to improve the care electorate wide,’ he added.
But shadow mental health minister Tania Mihailuk says the survey is just a ‘distraction’.
‘This government has failed to prioritise mental health and will announce anything to distract from the stark reality that the system is lurching from one crisis to another.’
‘The mental health system on the North Coast is under immense pressure and patients, as well carers, need to be confident that the local facilities’ have the capacity to respond to critical incidences urgently,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘Carers aren’t interested in surveys they desperately need proper support and be assured that their loved ones are receiving quality care.’
Half-million-dollar price tag
According to the government’s own figures, the cost of running the surveys will come to almost half-a-million dollars over the next two years.
The carer experience survey will cost $180,000 and the electronic patient survey $280,000.
Mental health minister Tanya Davies said all mental health services across the state will receive ‘regular reports outlining not only what consumers have to say, but how carers found their interaction with staff and the service as a whole’.
For more information or to complete the survey visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/mentalhealth/pages/eYES.aspx