Mental health care waiting times place strain on carers: report

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THE Productivity Commission report on government services revealed Canberrans waiting for mental health care are experiencing the longest waiting times in the country.

Emergency department wait times for mental health patients are well below the national average, with only 38 per cent of Canberra mental health patients “seen on time”.

This is in in stark contrast to figures from a 2016-17 report where 58 per cent of the time the emergency department fulfilled their obligations for waiting patients.

Carers ACT criticised the waiting time blow outs, suggesting it placed additional strain on family and friend carers of people with mental health conditions that creates poorer outcomes for both carers and patients.

“Waiting for extended periods of time in an emergency department with your family member places unbearable strain on carers and leaves a pervasive sense of helplessness,” Carers ACT chief executive Lisa Kelly said.

“Mental health carers are forced to fill in the gaps when care is delayed or the systems are not able to respond.

“This puts them under enormous stress, impacts their employment and damages their well-being.”

The report also suggests that is not only issues with emergency departments that mental health in the ACT is facing.

Even after patients are checked out, it is difficult to access acute care for patients.

“Carers often tell us that there is a bed block at the hospital so their family member cannot get admitted, even if they are extremely unwell,” Ms Kelly said.

“Carers ACT is working with ACT Health and other community partners to create alternative options to the emergency department for mental health consumers.

“Getting this up and running should be a priority.”

Carers ACT calls on government to urgently address the prioritisation of mental health in emergency departments, increase the bed capacity of acute mental health facilities and provide increased supports for mental health carers in times of acute stress.

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