The recently announced partnership between the Commonwealth, States and Territories and the private and not-for-profit hospital sector will strengthen Australia’s capacity to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
‘While there are still many unanswered questions about how this might work in practice, the agreement does allow for the integration of private hospitals with state and territory health systems so as to add flexibility to the hospital sector and extend the capacity of the whole health system,’ said the President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), Associate Professor John Allan.
‘This clears the way for state and territory governments to strike up local agreements with private hospitals to secure access to much needed infrastructure and resources including patient beds, workforce, facilities, essential equipment, diagnostics and supplies.
‘It is potentially good news for all patients with and without COVID-19, including those with general needs, aged care patients, people experiencing mental health crises and public National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants who require long term services and support.
‘It also opens the way to better support our many frontline health workers, including psychiatrists, nurses and others in the public and private systems, who are already facing higher demands through longer work hours, the requirement to keep up to date with emerging information on COVID-19, and changing practices.
‘A key challenge will be to ensure that any new arrangements ensure best practice mental health care and psychosocial support is a central part of every patient’s care notwithstanding the setting they attend, even for those who may not present with mental health concerns.
‘Importantly, this may require adapting existing networks for multi-disciplinary collaboration and integration. We can create effective mental health pathways for service and patient coordination at a local level – this also has implications for after care and community support.
‘To ensure any new arrangements are effective, additional capacity in hospitals must be complemented by a response to ensure community based mental health services can continue even with changed models and new types of service delivery. This will help people to stay well once they are out of hospital, and prevent the likelihood of new admissions, particularly amongst the most vulnerable.
‘More than ever, there is a need to support people to stay well at home. This will require integration across the public, private and community sector which integrates services delivered by Primary Health Networks and non-Government organisations, private practitioners and has clear links with local Mental Health Services.
‘Where possible, what we need now is for each of these governments to move quickly to secure effective arrangements with agreeable private hospitals which best support the physical and mental health of their communities,’ said Associate Professor John Allan.
‘It might also create the opportunity for the federal and state and territory governments, in line with the recommendations of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, to consider a more integrated funding and governance model, which spans health and non-health sectors, and facilitates holistic and person centred-care.
The RANZCP looks forward to working with federal, state and territory governments and participating hospitals to support the nation’s health system throughout the COVID-19 crisis and into the future.
For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.
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