Geelong Advertiser, 29 September 2021
Barwon Health’s mental health services are under mounting pressure amid claims of a staffing shortage.
Geelong Justice Party MP Stuart Grimley said new Health and Community Services Union data revealed Barwon Health was down 34 staff across the acute mental health space.
Mr Grimley said the figures suggested Geelong was already significantly understaffed in the mental health and alcohol and other drug sectors and this could get worse with impacts from Covid-19.
He said if just one team member was sick, they would be in crisis.
Mr Grimley said the figures were “scary” and needed to be addressed immediately.
He said HACSU had told him it was already difficult enough to attract people to the workforce, as they hadn’t received a pay rise in two years and had notoriously low wages.
Mr Grimley, who donates his politician pay rise every month, said this wasn’t good enough.
“I am shocked to read that Geelong’s mental health workforce is already understaffed by about 34 staff across the service,” Mr Grimley said.
"This is a huge worry and the pressure on the current staff to turn up to work to ensure people can be helped is concerning.
‘This means mental health staff who themselves need a mental break ultimately can’t take sick leave without affecting workforce demand.”
In a survey undertaken by HACSU, 97 per cent of members said they did not have the appropriate equivalent full-time positions on site to assist with community members grappling with substance use issues.
Barwon Health mental health, drugs and alcohol service clinical director Steve Moylan said the team was working hard to deliver quality health services despite workforce issues affecting all health services.
“Barwon Health MHDAS, like all services across Victoria, is currently recruiting for new mental health clinicians to fill new and existing roles,” Associate Professor Moylan said.
“Despite currently having some vacant roles across the breadth of our service delivery (including inpatient acute wards and community settings), we are confident that we have the workforce flexibility to meet any challenge that arises out of Covid restrictions.”
Associate Prof Moylan said following the findings of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health system, a number of new and expanded services were being developed.
“In light of this, there are active efforts underway to develop, attract and retain mental health clinicians to ensure the reform delivers the benefits we need for the community,” he said.