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Letter: Concerns about mental health services stikes a cord

Dear Editor

Steve Whan’s concerns about the mental health services in the Queanbeyan region (read here), which I understand extends out to Braidwood and beyond, strikes a chord with me. I worked as a clinical psychologist in the Queanbeyan Mental Health Team from 2004 to 2008, and I fondly remember how much the team cared for our clients. I loved the job.

There were problems, but many were outside the team’s control – I was frequently told the team was one-third understaffed, but no attempts were ever made to fill those vacancies. In my whole time there, we scribbled barely legible notes into paper files. Meanwhile, a computer program was rolled out to monitor staff activity and performance – interesting priorities, where managerial information with a significant administrative overhead, was more important than clinical information. Because of the paper file system, clients moving to or from another area, or into the ACT, would frequently fall through cracks. Sometimes this literally had fatal consequences. Sometimes the consequence was not fatal, but very, very negative. I would not be surprised if the paper file system is still in place.

As a Councillor in Palerang, I have no contact with the Queanbeyan health service (whatever they call themselves this year). However, there’s a one-off consultation coming up soon which I will attend. I sincerely hope we can get Area Health Services to talk more to their communities, instead of listening only to their masters in Sydney. If Steve’s description of changes is correct, it seems that the era of preventative health care may be over, before it ever really had any effect. The idea of GP co-payments are another sad sign of that – in what other universe could deterring people from seeing their GP be a good thing?

Peter Marshall

Captains Flat

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