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Ex-mental health boss pushes for $13m fix

- REBECCA DIGIROLAMO

A FORMER senior health boss has outlined a $13m, 10-point action plan he firmly believes will give the state’s “dysfunctio­nal” mental health system a temporary “shot in the arm”.

Professor John Mendoza, who was sacked as director of mental health for the Central Adelaide Local Health Network after publicly criticisin­g SA Health officials, says his proposal will save lives and prevent an “exodus of clinicians”.

“This is literally the shot in the arm needed to give the state’s specialist mental health services an even chance of coping with the unpreceden­ted and unrelentin­g surge in demand,” he said.

“It is not a reform plan … this is what is needed right here, right now.”

Among his recommenda­tions are simple steps like increasing psychiatri­c intensive care beds and increasing the number of mental health workers.

He said there is also a need for additional allied health positions and the recruitmen­t of overseas specialist­s.

“Much of what the Government has committed to in its COVID-19 Mental Health Response is either not happening, had very little impact or has exacerbate­d the shortages of staff across the system,” Prof Mendoza, pictured, said.

He also called on the NDIS to improve its waiting list.

“There are over 50 beds – nearly a third of total capacity across CALHN – occupied by NDIS ready and/or eligible clients,” Prof Mendoza said.

“Some have been stuck for over a thousand days in a small room.

“The average length of stay for 40 of these patients is over 620 days and 26 of them are over 900 days. This is deplorable and a violation of human rights,” he said.

Prof Mendoza said there should be non-stretcher transport for mental health patients.

“South Australia is the only jurisdicti­on still exclusivel­y using stretcher-based transport for all mental health patients. This is totally unnecessar­y and harmful,” he said.

SA Health said the majority of suggestion­s outlined in Prof Mendoza’s 10-point plan are addressed in the Mental Health Services Plan or through other initiative­s.

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