Bathurst mental health facilities to benefit from new funds

By Monty Jacka, Rebekah Lougher and Taylor Strudwick

Member for Bathurst Paul Toole is promising a funding boost to mental health services across the region ahead of this month’s state election.

Bathurst Health Service will receive $17,000 to purchase sensory equipment including weighted blankets, squeeze balls and updated furniture to support mental health patients.

Funding Boost: The Bathurst Health Service is set to receive a funding boost to mental health services (Rebekah Lougher)

Mr Toole said the funding will enhance facilities within the local health district, ensuring “person-centred health care” which responds to patients individual needs.

“Well designed physical spaces in acute mental health units will help dignify our mental health consumers by meeting their needs for recovery, security and connection.”

The announcement comes off the back of the Coalition’s pledge to boost healthcare across the state as part of a wider $350,000 healthcare infrastructure commitment, with Mr Toole pushing healthcare as an election promise.

Additionally, the Government recently announced an additional $2.8 billion dollars to recruit an additional doctors, nurses, midwives and other frontline support staff to care for patients.

The extra 8,300 healthcare professional promised include an additional 5,000 nurse and midwives – including mental health and residential care nurses – along with 1060 doctors in the hope to reduce wait times across the health system.

The National’s hope regional NSW will receive nearly half of the promised workforce boost, with more than 3700 staff to be recruited into regional centres across the state.

The Labor Party has responded to the Coalition’s promises by committing a further 5,500 nurses to improve current nurse to patient ratios across the state (Figure 1).

If they are elected, Labor hopes to increase the amount of time each nurse or midwife can spend with their patient and reduce the risk of errors.

Current ratios stand with an average of one nurse per four patients during the day (Figure 1), which Labor says isn’t enough.

Figure 1: The NSW Nurses and Midwives association believes these ratios need to be improved (Courtesy of the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association)

Country Labor Party candidate Beau Riley has reinforced Labor’s policy of hospitals over stadiums, with the party hoping to boost the nurse to patient ratios in local health districts across the state.

“Nurses are magical…. Having great nursing staff keeping you together and constantly giving you good service picks you up [helping with your mental health in times of illness],” Beau Riley said.

Mr Riley said while the National Party’s mental health boost would be greatly beneficial for the community if it comes to fruition, he believes the party and Mr Toole are throwing money into the electorate in a bid to tide over voters and retain the seat.

“It’s a disingenuous type of announcement, that’s at the eleventh hour before an election.”

However, Mr Riley has a fight on his hands to win the seat of Bathurst, with Mr Toole retaining the seat since 2011, producing a massive 36.7 per cent swing against the Country Labor Party.

Mr Toole is favourite to come out on top at the March 23rd state election, holding the seat by a margin of 15.8% per cent.