ORANGE will soon become the focal point of a revolutionary mental health service that will use first class video technology to provide psychiatric assessments across western NSW.
The Mental Health Emergency Care Rural Access Project (MHECRAP) will enable two full-time psychiatrists and a team of up to 10 nurses to provide psychiatric assessment of patients face-to-face and via video link from areas within the Greater Western Area Health Service (GWAHS).
GWAHS director of mental health services Dr Russell Roberts said the facility had the potential to break new ground for mental health care in western NSW.
“For seven days a week there will be psychiatrists performing assessments – this is very much a new thing in terms of weekend coverage,” he said.
“This is something that will support nursing staff across GWAHS by providing 24-hour support, with access to experienced nurses and psychiatrists as well.
“Towns like Broken Hill and Tibooburra, we can't put teams in all of these places, so it really will provide a focal point.”
Currently, just 61 per cent of the GWAHS population have access to mental health services.
Initial video technology links needed to complete the psychiatric assessments will be implemented in Dubbo, Walgett and Broken Hill before a further roll-out to far-reaching areas within GWAHS.
The facility at Bloomfield also contains private psychiatric assessment and staff training rooms.
Andrew Roberts, a clinical nurse consultant with MHECRAP, said the technology would also allow employees in Orange to access the details of incoming patients from other medical bases within GWAHS.
“Quite often we'll receive a call saying 'we're bringing someone to you shortly' and we'll have a limited idea of their mental health history. This is a really important step in bridging that problem and having access to important information quickly,” Mr Roberts said.
Staff at MHECRAP will then use the psychiatric assessments to coordinate appropriate in-patient admissions to auxiliary mental health facilities if required.
MHECRAP will also reduce the stress on emergency services in the region, Dr Roberts believes.
“In the past, if someone has needed help in Walgett then they are looking at a six-hour ambulance ride to receive that care,” he said.
“If someone has had a breakdown police and ambulance have had to escort them down here – we want to minimise that impact on them.
“This is not going to solve all the problems in the world – we'll still need the help of police and ambulance sometimes. But we're looking at a serious reduction in unnecessary transport.”
MHECRAP is hoping to appoint all the staff for the facility in time to commence training in January.