Mental Health Beds

01 Nov 2006 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse a question on the subject of acute mental health bed numbers.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On the ABC Drive program of 16 October, the minister made the following statement:

. . . we’ve got adequate acute bed numbers and we’re committed to retaining those numbers. . . we’re committed to the current levels of acute mental health beds, what we need to do more work on though is providing community-based services.

In that same week, the opposition received advice from within the mental health sector that there was a waiting list for acute admission to Royal Adelaide Hospital beds of some 20 people and, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, some 10 people were on the waiting list. Will the minister stand by her statement that we have adequate acute bed numbers?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse): I thank the honourable member for her question. Indeed, as I mentioned yesterday, demands on our inpatient services ebb and flow. There are seasonal and other fluctuations throughout the year, and this is quite usual. The shortage that the member refers to—and, in fact, she is at least right on this occasion: there was a shortage recently— was due to the school holiday period and a problem with staffing. So it was really about adequate staffing numbers rather than the number of beds.

In relation to the radio program that I spoke on, I was referring to the average acute bed numbers that this state has.

I am very proud to say—and I have said it in this chamber before—that South Australia has, on a national average, quite a high number of acute beds. We are higher than the national average, and I think we have one of the highest number—or proportion per head of population, of course—of acute beds in this state. As I said on that program, South Australia is well placed in terms of our acute bed numbers at present and, as I have stated previously, the area that is a challenge for us is finding other levels of service intervention, particularly at the sub-acute and community-based level of service. As I have said in this place before, we are working very hard on a strategy and a reform agenda to reconfigure the types of services that we provide for mental health consumers in this state.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: As a supplementary question, will the minister confirm whether the high demand that the government and hospitals have experienced in relation to this particular blip—as she alleges it is—has prompted the government to seek to utilise private sector acute beds in facilities such as the Adelaide Clinic and, if so, how many of those beds has the government had to purchase?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I do not have the details of that with me today. I am happy to take the question on notice and bring the answer back to the chamber.