AFTER-hours mental healthcare in Camperdown, Portland and Hamilton will be axed this year under cost-saving measures introduced by South West Healthcare (SWH).
On-call mental health nurses in all three towns will be replaced by a video link-up service by October.
But the decision has put SWH at loggerheads with unions, who fear patients will be left in the hands of paramedics and police.
Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) state organiser Angela Landmann said the move would affect patients requiring treatment late at night. Ms Landmann sai members considered the downgrading a “life-and-death situation”.
The on-call hours face the chopping block because of little demand over the past six years, according to SWH mental health services director Caroline Byrne.
“The total number of calls relating to Hamilton, Portland and Camperdown over the past 12 months was on average three calls per week,” Ms Byrne said. “Of those three calls per week, less than 30 per cent required a local on-call clinician to respond. The decision to implement these changes will continue to include extensive consultation with all affected parties, including emergency services.”
But the union struck back at the claim, pointing to a lack of other services to deal with mental health late at night.
“We don’t disagree that it costs a lot of money but it’s a critical service.” Ms Landmann said. State Opposition health secretary Wade Noonan toured the region last week.
“There hasn’t been an assessment done of the downstream impacts (on other services) that might come from the decision,” Mr Noonan said.
SWH will closely monitor the staged implementation which is due to start in April and finish in October.