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Psychiatrists back Mendoza mental health call

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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has backed SA Health whistleblower John Mendoza’s call for a plan to deal with the COVID-prompted crisis in the state’s mental health system.

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However, the college also wants deeper issues addressed in the mental health system.

As reported exclusively by InDaily this week, Mendoza, the former mental health executive director for the Central Adelaide Local Health Network, has identified an action plan to deal with the growing crisis.

He walked out of his SA Health office a week ago rather than obey a bureaucratic order to keep silent about what he says are deep problems in the mental health system.

Senior health figures, including psychiatrists and emergency department doctors, immediately backed Mendoza last week, after InDaily revealed his concerns about underinvestment and mismanagement.

The RANZCP has reiterated today that it backs Mendoza’s crisis plan but also wants the Government to go further.

“We absolutely need to manage the surge in demand due to the pandemic, but it would be a mistake for people to think the government only needs to open a few more acute beds to solve the issues in our mental health system,” said Dr Paul Furst, chair of the RANZCP South Australian Branch.

“Professor Mendoza’s plan is a great starting point and would have broad support across the sector, but the government needs to get serious about sitting down with the clinical directors from each LHN and working through it.

“We still desperately need to make long-term, transformational investments in the mental health of the South Australian community and we need to seem some real commitment from government to improving the system.”

Among the RANZCP’s concerns are a lack of forensic beds and specialist psychiatric beds.

Workforce concerns are also deep, with Furst saying that “some community teams operating with less than 50 per cent of positions occupied due to lack of qualified staff. How can they be expected to reduce emergency demand?”

More support for GPs, better training for police, non-ambulance transfers for mental health patients, and more social housing, are also on the college’s list.

“Professor Mendoza is the most recent voice, joining numerous others, in calling out the poor state of South Australia’s mental health system,” Furst said. “He sadly isn’t the first and will most likely not be the last.”

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