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News Archive

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards has criticised the Minister for Mental Health for failing to intervene and halt the withdrawal by Bendigo Health of the out of hours mental health crisis assessment service.

“The withdrawal of this service means that that mental health patients in the Bendigo region including Castlemaine, Maryborough, Kyneton and Echuca will no longer have face to face after hours assessments done by on call trained mental health clinicians”.

Ms Edwards called on the Minister for Mental Health, Mary Wooldridge in Parliament last week to have an external review of this service conducted that was inclusive of regional police, regional ambulance and regional service providers who would be impacted by the withdrawal of the service.

“Under this proposal, many more mental health patients will have to be transported to Bendigo hospital for assessment and treatment”.

“The police and ambulance services will be placed under increasing pressure to convey patients suffering from mental illness to Bendigo”.

“We know that our regional ambulance service is already under enormous pressure and at crisis point”.

“And the Minister should be well aware that shortfalls in the mental health system are putting significant strain on police”.

“Cuts to the police budget by the Government have put increasing pressure on police resources”.

“The police cells in Bendigo are full and Bendigo Health’s emergency department is stretched to the limit”.

“The fact is that mental health services in the Bendigo region are struggling to meet the demands of a growing population and as the Minister would be aware the very significant and alarming increase in drug related psychosis – particularly from the use of the drug Ice”.

“It is the welfare of the mental health patients in our regions that must come first and so it is also vital that those who would normally access this service, who may be better off being assessed in their own community, are not disadvantaged by the withdrawal of this important service”.

Ms Edwards said that Bendigo Health had been determined to withdraw the service since 2009.

“The CEO of Bendigo Health John Mulder attempted to withdraw this service in 2009 but the then Labor Minister for Mental Health Lisa Neville stepped in and the service was retained”.

“A further attempt to withdraw the service was made in March this year following the stoush over Federal funding”.

“Mr Mulder at the time said the service would be retained following the reinstatement of funding”.

“Here we are just a few months later and Bendigo Health has backed down on its previous announcement that the service would be retained.”

“It is imperative that the Minister for Mental Health step in and demand a review be conducted and discussion had with local police, the local ambulance service and mental health service providers before this vital service is withdrawn”.

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