Lockdowns causing severe impact on psychiatry services

05 August 2021

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has called on the Federal Government to implement Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) item numbers for the delivery of psychiatry services to private hospital inpatients via telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RANZCP has previously submitted a proposal to the Government about suitability of such arrangements including good governance and oversight for high quality care.

RANZCP President, Associate Professor Vinay Lakra, explained the need for telehealth to be made available to inpatients at private hospitals to provide a continuation of care under specific circumstances during a COVID-19 lockdown.

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a number of issues for people receiving treatment and care from psychiatrists, with lockdowns constantly interrupting consultations and ability to see their psychiatrist in a face-to-face capacity as a result of some psychiatrists having to isolate for various reasons’, said Associate Professor Lakra.

‘Use of the telehealth under the COVID-19 MBS item numbers will allow psychiatrists to provide quality and continuing care under the circumstances of a pandemic where flexibility is required to minimise risks of interrupted care or spread of infection.’

RANZCP Queensland Branch Chair, Professor Brett Emmerson AM, echoed this sentiment, explaining that a significant number of psychiatrists are currently unable to deliver care due to the current lockdown situation in Queensland.

‘With the resurgence of lockdowns in some of the states, we are seeing negative impacts of restrictions on people’s ability to access psychiatric care’, said Professor Emmerson.

‘Psychiatrists are unable to treat people in their care due to private hospitals not allowing visitors or some consultants having to isolate for various reasons.

‘For example, at one hospital there are currently 10 psychiatrists unable to provide consultations to inpatients due to the lockdown and lack of telehealth alternative, whereas psychiatrists at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital are able to use telehealth to continue to provide services unimpeded.

‘This wouldn’t replace normal consultation, it’s an in-case of emergency exception that needs to be available for situations exactly like what we find ourselves in at the moment.'

The RANZCP calls on the government to include services to inpatients in private hospitals to the COVID-19 MBS telehealth items to allow for the continuation of care during the pandemic lockdowns.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.