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Mental health cases high at Echuca hospital's ED

An average of one person a day is presenting at Echuca hospital's emergency department with mental health issues.

JESS CRAIG January 3, 2014 4:32am

Mental health problems are increasing among people presenting at hospitals.


Echuca Regional Health’s emergency department sees on average one person a day who presents with a mental health issue, according to executive director of nursing June Dyson.

The hospital has reported anxiety (155 presentations), depression (57) and alcohol-related issues (54) the top three mental health conditions seen on a regular basis.

During 2012, 411 people with a mental health issue presented to the hospital’s ED and a similar figure was seen in 2013.

ED staff also saw at least one person a week suffering from an overdose of medication or poisoning.

The numbers come as new figures show more people are using hospital emergency departments across the state to access treatment for mental illness as the strain on Victoria’s mental health system grows.

The Victorian Health Department said the state’s mental health system was dealing with a growing number of people with increasingly complex needs.

About one million Victorians experience mental illness each year.

Mrs Dyson said anxiety, depression and alcohol-related issues account for about 65 per cent of mental health presentations to the hospital’s ED.

While Echuca Regional Health does not provide specialist mental health services, patients can access services from Bendigo Health Care Group (BHCG) Psychiatric Service, which services the Echuca region.

‘‘Their offices are situated adjacent to the hospital,’’ Mrs Dyson said.

She said ERH provides initial assessment and management of mental health-related conditions through the ED and patients are then referred to BHCG psychiatric services for specialist assessment and management.

‘‘ERH has a good and positive working relationship with BHCG psychiatric services and ED is well supported by the BHCG psychiatric services team based in Echuca.’’

The health department’s latest report on mental health reform priorities said many people were reaching crisis point before they received services.

The report said bed shortages, high caseloads and blockages in the system made it hard for people to access timely and appropriate care.

Mental Health Minister Mary Wooldridge said special units were being created to get people into urgent care.

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