Cook Labor Government neglect of Mental Health Advocacy Service an unfolding tragedy

The Cook Labor Government’s wilful underfunding of the state’s Mental Health Advocacy Service points to a government actively trying to cover up its mismanagement of the public health system.

Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam said that for the MHAS, the body with legislated responsibility to protect the interests of mental health patients, to say in its annual report that its very existence was under threat due to lack of funding is an unfolding tragedy.

“That this funding crisis coincides with a 75 per cent increase in the number of serious issues reported in mental health facilities compared with 2021-22 is appalling,” Ms Mettam said.

“The agency also recorded a 35 per cent increase in complaints and issues recorded by advocates. This is a sector that is clearly at crisis point but yet there appears to be no priority or urgency in addressing these issues.

“An adequately funded and resourced mental health sector would not be recording that unprecedented increase in the level of dissatisfaction from consumers.”

Complaints investigated by the MHAS included dozens of sexual and physical abuse cases, including four involving the sexual safety of children receiving inpatient treatment.

Ms Mettam said of particular concern was the agency’s finding that the lack of bedroom and bathroom locks continued to create a safety risk.

“It is inexplicable that these safety measures haven’t been prioritised,” Ms Mettam said.

“We know that one of the key recommendations following the alleged sexual assault of a 13yo girl in the mental health unit at Perth Children’s Hospital in January 2021 was to create a safe ward environment and yet it still hasn’t been completed.

“It beggars belief and yet we have a government that continues to spin the lines that everything is fine, nothing to see here.”

Ms Mettam said the report highlighted a major disconnect between the agency and Health Minister on a number of levels, including the number of dedicated mental health beds in WA.

“I asked the Minister in Parliament this year how many mental health beds were in the public system and was told there were 868, the MHAS annual report says there are 686 authorised mental health beds in WA in 2023, that’s quite a discrepancy,” Ms Mettam said.

“The Minister needs to stop the game of smoke and mirrors and the Cook Labor Government needs to use some of the $17 billion surplus it has accumulated over the past three years to properly fund this essential service.”