COMMUNITY advocates have called on the state government to create a new 40-bed mental health facility closer to the emergency department.
The state budget will be released on June 19 and the community has heaped pressure on mental health minister Tanya Davies to include funding in the budget to upgrade the public hospital unit.
Long-time advocate Joan Wakeford said the current situation was “ridiculous” with fly-in psychiatrists wasting their limited time in town, racing around Dean Street between separate facilities.
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She called for a one-stop fix near the emergency department with about 40 beds.
“That’s what we want, we haven’t put it on paper but we jolly-well might go home and get a ruler and a pencil out and see what we can come up with,” she said.
“It’s the amount of money I’m worried about, if we don’t push for more than just a replacement for these 26 beds, than we haven’t got a case. “The psychiatrists tell us there are better units almost in every other regional centre than the one we've got here.”
Ms Wakeford believed a better facility would attract more clinicians and professionals to town, like the cancer centre did.
“We’ve got a big problem here because we don’t have enough registrars who do the bulk of the work,” she said.
Last year, the Tamworth community circled a petition to upgrade the facility which garnered more than 12,000 signatures.
“I think we’ve got to have a case,” Ms Wakeford said.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said the Banksia had been “identified for funding”, but it was still crucial for the community to rally to get the unit to the top of the list when it came to budget time.
“There are many other mental health institutions right across the state who are in the same boat as we are,” he said.
“We need to ensure when the minister is looking at where she allocates funds that the Banksia mental health facility comes top of mind.”
Mr Anderson didn’t know how much funding was needed for the upgrade and said it was about getting the unit mentioned in the budget and then building a case of what was needed.
“In my view, you’ve got to push all the way through to June 19 when the budget will be handed down,” he said.
“My understanding is, with health, a bucket of money is allocated to a particular area and then they disperse those funds accordingly.”
Minister Tanya Davies couldn’t preempt what was in the budget but confirmed, but said there was a case to upgrade Banksia.
“The Government continues to work on a mental health infrastructure plan that will inform future investment and Kevin has been a wonderful advocate for his community on this issue.”
The minister had previously said the unit had been assessed for an upgrade.
“Banksia is one of a number of capital projects that will be considered for inclusion in the Statewide Mental Health Investment Strategy, which is being prepared for the Government to assess,” she said.
“Kevin on a number of occasions has urged the Government to prioritise Banksia in this process and I commend him on his advocacy on behalf of the community.”