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Echuca's on-call mental health service faces axe

Funding cuts at Echuca Regional Health will result in the loss of Echuca's after-hours, on-call mental health service from April 2.

RUTH CLAYTON February 18, 2013 11:05am

Funding cuts will result in the axing of Echuca’s out-of-hours, on-call mental health service.

An annex of Bendigo Health, Echuca Community Mental Health has clinicians on-call between 8pm and 6am to help Echuca Regional Health assess mentally ill patients, write management plans and refer patients for further treatment.

The cut will come into effect on April 2.

Bendigo Health board chair Michael Langdon said the service reduction was part of the Federal Government’s funding cuts, which included withdrawing $2.9million funding from Bendigo Health.

ERH emergency department unit manager Craig Frew said the service provided by Echuca Community Mental Health was good and the cut would have a huge impact on hospital staff.

‘‘As it currently stands, they (Echuca Community Mental Health staff) would send an on-call worker to the emergency department to do an assessment (of a patient presenting with mental illness),’’ Mr Frew said.

‘‘Once they’ve been medically cleared, they would do a detailed assessment.

‘‘(They would then) speak with a psychiatrist or psychiatric registrar and then a management plan would be formulated out of the discussion.’’

The patient would then be referred to wherever a bed was available or treated at the hospital and followed up by Echuca Community Mental Health staff, Mr Frew said.

Without the service, it could lead to patient transfer delays, he said.

‘‘A lot of it (assessment) would have to be done over the phone or we would have to transport clients down to Bendigo for assessment,’’ Mr Frew said.

‘‘We wouldn’t have a clear-cut management plan in place (and would have to) consult with the mental health team in triage.’’

ERH chief executive Michael Delahunty said he would seek to discuss the cut with Bendigo Health to minimise the impact on Echuca hospital.

The service cut is part of $100,000 in funding cuts from Bendigo Health to mental health services in Castlemaine, Maryborough and Kyneton.

For psychiatric triage information, assessment and referral run by Bendigo Health, contact the 24-hour service on 1300363788.

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