IT’S not the thought of losing their jobs that is worrying Carlene Hurst Nurse Practitioner Mental Health and her Mental Health nurse colleague Sandra Challis, rather it is letting nearly 100 vulnerable clients down, most of which would then struggle to have their mental health needs met by existing services within this rural location.
“When I first heard that the funding for the Mental Health nurse program at Foster and Toora Medical Centre was going to tender after it being reoccurring through Gippsland Primary Healthcare Network since 2014, I felt sick in the stomach and could hardly meet my client’s eyes when we talked about any long-term planning” says Carlene who has been working in the Mental Health nursing role since January 2011.
“Given how difficult it has been for people in general with the pandemic, I was disappointed in the timing of this funding upheaval, I’m now even more troubled by the timing of the public consultation phase which opened for online bookings yesterday, 9/9/21, with the sessions for health professionals, stakeholders and providers of services starting as early as Thursday 16/9 and the community consultation on the 23/9 and 29/9.”
“The community consultation is incredibly important as it allows people to voice what they would like for this local area in the way of mental health services, it allows people who have experienced mental health issues or have cared for someone with a mental health issue to speak up about what they feel is necessary, it’s not just about the work that Sandra and I are doing” said Carlene.
Another problem Carlene says, is that the community consultation relies on people being able to access a computer to not only sign up but to be part of the consultative process through Zoom. “Despite Covid-19 restrictions, it’s difficult to understand how, given the disparate population that is being asked to have their say, only one way of communicating, which is not at all easy for some, is being permitted. There is only an email address on the flyer, not even a phone number for people to ring if they want to ask more about the process.”
The funds are held by Gippsland Primary Health Network which is within the federal health portfolio. The funding changes are underpinned by the outcomes of the Royal Commission into Mental Health services, which spoke at length about the “missing middle” – the people who were complex or too ill to be able to easily navigate the existing system.
Dr Phil Worboys, when asked his thoughts, is the first to agree that the Royal Commission highlighted extensive difficulties for people being able to find help. He feels that since having Carlene and then Sandra here in Foster, the local general practitioners have been able to mitigate these issues and ensure a ‘wrap around service’ that prevented fewer people from falling through the cracks in an otherwise substantially flawed system.
“We have also been lucky to have an amazing team of local private psychologists, mental health social workers, that have added to a team of supports which compared to when I first started has ensured that people can access help when it’s needed”.
Dr Worboys, along with the other principals of the Foster and Toora Medical Centre, Dr Owen Casson and Dr Ruyu Yao, ask people to go to the Gippsland Primary Health Network website, go into the events calendar and select a date for either GPHN 2022/23 Primary Health mental health care and AOD commissioning forum if you are a health professional, stakeholder or provider of service or if you are a community member scroll to GPHN Commissioning event.
Help us set priorities for further mental health services and drug / alcohol support in the community. Or ring 03 5175 5444 GPHN switchboard to ask how you can be part of the forums if you are unable to go online.
The more people that are part of this consultation process from our local area the more chance there is of these rural locations unique needs being heard and understood by GPHN.