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AMA calls for mental health spending boost in budget

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A “significant” funding boost to mental health services is needed to alleviate the “crisis” in SA’s mental health system, according to the Australian Medical Association, which is pleading with the State Government to address issues in EDs, country hospitals and palliative care.

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In the association’s 2021-22 budget submission to Health Minister Stephen Wade, former AMA SA President Chris Moy outlines eight priority areas for funding and reform in the state’s health system – calling on the government to “follow the science” and make “investments … with foresight that prevent the need for more expensive solutions in the future”.

Among the calls are for the Minister to “immediately respond” to issues raised by clinicians regarding access and appropriate care in the state’s mental health system.

“Our members report that any sort of mental health service outside of psychology visits under a mental health care plan is simply not available,” Moy wrote.

“It is distressing to explain to those who need support with addiction, depression or other mental health issues that in an advanced society like ours this help is not available.

“We look forward to an announcement of adequate funding to ensure the system can support all South Australians in their mental health care.”

The call comes after former Central Adelaide Local Health Network mental health executive John Mendoza told a parliamentary committee last week South Australia is the “worst jurisdiction in the world in terms of people stuck in emergency departments for mental health crises for more than 24 hours”.

The AMA says resources in the budget must be “urgently allocated” to address ED bed shortages otherwise it could lead to “devastating results” for patients.

The peak body is also calling for a change in the planning process for the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital so it incorporates “data and modelling that ensures the hospital is built to meet peak demand in a system already burdened by unmet services”.

“We believe that funding for WCH services is currently inadequate, and urge that adequate funding be allocated to ensure services are sufficient at the existing WCH until the time that the new hospital opens,” Moy’s submission reads.

Wade has previously flagged the Government will be revealing costings for the new Women’s and Children’s hospital in the budget.

Meanwhile, on palliative care, the AMA pointed to the most recent Health Performance Council review of South Australia’s end of life care which indicated a “serious unmet need for palliative care services”.

“The AMA(SA) submits that funding to address this unmet need, of amounts substantially greater than those promised in the current government’s pre-election promise, must be a priority,” Moy said.

The immediate past president of the AMA also said the state’s rural areas are not “[receiving] resources to provide adequate and safe care which has left “many rural South Australians … fearful of their health and even their lives should they need urgent care”.

He went on to call for extra funding for rural hospitals, better broadband services in the country to support telehealth services and increased incentives to recruit and retain doctors in regional South Australia.

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