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Question Time - Northern Beaches Hospital

My question is directed to the Minister for Health, representing the Minister for Mental Health. In June 2022 the former New South Wales Government committed to establish four acute paediatric mental health beds at Northern Beaches Hospital. One year later, the beds have not been delivered. Will the Minister inform the people of the northern beaches what steps the Government is taking to ensure these desperately needed beds are established and provide a time frame for delivery?

ANSWER:

I thank the member for his question and his advocacy on behalf of his local community, particularly in the areas of health and mental health. I will talk briefly in a moment about what the Hon. Rose Jackson, the Minister for Mental Health in the other place, is doing to address this. I understand that the office of the member for Wakehurst and the Minister's office are in the process of setting up a more detailed discussion around this issue. The issue was raised with me recently by Dr Scamps, the Independent member for Mackellar, who is concerned about it. It is concerning that the previous Government promised something in June last year but, when we came to the end of March or early April, nothing had been done. That is a concern, particularly when it relates to mental health support and the real need for it in the member's community.

Unlike physical illnesses, mental illness is not an easy topic for people to discuss. That is the truth. We have destigmatised a lot of things in the process but, if we are honest, we can admit that this is still not an area that people are as comfortable to talk about as physical illness. I think every member in this place has a commitment to changing that. As leaders, we play a role in that process. Whether we are from rural, regional or inner-city locations, each of our communities relies on us to advocate for them. As the member knows, for some time now the northern beaches community has been requesting a dedicated acute mental health unit for children and young people, which the previous Government committed to deliver in June last year. It is a fair expectation, because demand is increasing rather than abating in that community.

I know that the Minister for Mental Health supports such a unit being established on the northern beaches. I am advised that the Minister has now met with staff from the Ministry of Health as well as the CEO of the Northern Beaches Hospital. She has made it clear that the New South Wales Government expects, in six to eight weeks' time, a clear plan for the implementation for this unit, and an explanation as to exactly why there have been delays in providing this unit and the funding it has secured and needs. We understand the need in the community, and we will pursue the timely receipt of this information. Once reviewed, we will be in a position to make an informed decision to determine the feasibility of these beds and, more importantly, to understand exactly why they have not been provided following the previous Government's commitment last year. [Extension of time]

Mental health support is needed now. As such, the Northern Beaches Hospital has developed an interim model of care to help admit young people requiring mental health care into hospital. That is an interim decision. The recently established hospital team operates in coordination with the established child and adolescent mental health services of the Northern Sydney Local Health District. These are services that operate in many of our own communities as part of an integrated response to comprehensively meet the varying mental health needs of children and young people and to provide a streamlined transition between hospital and community services where ongoing care is needed. Young people on the northern beaches are now able to receive a specialised, developmentally appropriate health response when in crisis, both in the community and in hospital. These services are delivered by the Safeguards program, which is aimed at providing care to children and young people aged nought to 17 who are experiencing high levels of mental health distress.

Knowing the Minister for Mental Health, who is a tremendous advocate for the mental health sector and those dealing with mental health challenges, I can assure the member that she is very closely monitoring the situation. I understand the offices of the member and the Minister are locking in a time when a detailed discussion can take place. Rest assured this will be a priority of both the Minister for Mental Health and mine, and I hope a priority for all of us in this place. We must show advocacy in our positions as members, regardless of who is in government, to make sure that people in our communities who are suffering mental health challenges get the same level of health care and support as we would expect for people with physical challenges. I think until we get to that point all of us in this place still have a lot of work to do.

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