While New Zealand nurses await to see what the May 17 Budget brings for mental health, their colleagues across the Tasman are heralding the Victorian state budget as “historic”.
The Victorian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation has welcomed a $705 million boost for mental health in Victoria’s May 1 Budget, including $32.5 million extra being invested in the mental health nursing workforce and free training for enrolled nurses from next year.
The Federation said the new mental health initiatives announced in the Budget state’s government, led by Labor’s Daniel Andrews, included extra regional rehabilitation facilities, new emergency department ‘crisis hubs’ for patients with urgent mental health, and drug and alcohol issues and education opportunities, as well as expanding the mental health nursing workforce.
It added that the major plank of the mental health initiatives was investing $100.5 million to create six emergency department ‘crisis hubs’ across the state, to be staffed with specialised nurses with the aim of providing a safer environment to deal with patients presenting with serious mental health or addiction issues. The ‘crisis hubs’ were also intended to help police know which hospitals to take affected people to for expert care.
Paul Gilbert, acting secretary for the Victoria branch, said it congratulated the Andrews Government for “listening to nurses’ concerns and responding with fundamental changes to the mental health model for the care of patients in the acute and recovery stages that will benefit the whole community”.
‘The new crisis hubs will mean the patient is safer and so are the other emergency department patients, the nurses, the doctors, the security guards and the police,’ he said.
The Budget also announced $32.5 million for 31 supernumerary clinical liaison nurses to support less experienced nurses and doctors caring for vulnerable patients, 110 additional postgraduate mental health nursing positions and funding for 40 registered nurses to undertake education in mental health nursing.
As part of reforming clinical mental health services the Government was also providing $28.6 million for more intensive clinical nursing services in the state’s existing Prevention and Recovery Care Units (PARC) that were designed to reduce pressure in acute services. PARCs provide short-term residential care for people with a mental illness.
A further $11.9 million was to be spent on building a new 20-bed residential facility for young people with a mental illness, focusing on early interventions and tailored support.
An extra $40.6 million was in the budget to fund construction of three new 30-bed addiction residential treatment facilities in the State.
The $2.1 billion state Budget for health included hospital upgrades and equipment, more elective surgery and increased workforce immunisation.
Also from 2019 the Diploma of Nursing – the enrolled nurse qualification has also been recognised as one of the state’s priority fee-free courses.
‘This will help young people in regional and metropolitan Victoria secure a qualification and a job in the growing health sector including private and public acute care and new public aged care facilities,” said Gilbert. “We would also hope the private aged care sector recognise the value of enrolled nurses and makes decisions to recruit ENs instead of the string of redundancies we have recently seen.”