A State Government plan to fund six specialist nurses across seven WA hospitals to help combat the State’s methamphetamine epidemic has been decried as “woefully inadequate” by the WA arm of the Australian Medical Association.
Announcing the strategy yesterday, Mental Health Minister Andrea Mitchell said the nurses, who would be in place by January, were designed to provide ways for meth users to get further treatment and give extra support to the hospitals’ emergency departments.
The plan was included in the May Budget.
The six full-time equivalent positions, which will cost the State Government $2.28 million, will be spread across six metropolitan hospitals and Bunbury to help treat the huge number of patients presenting with meth-induced problems.
“It’s about how to manage a person who is going through meth-induced psychosis, and help other staff and the emergency departments with what to do,” Mrs Mitchell said.
“This is a trained nurse who can manage this condition. We will be evaluating it (the program) as we go, and we believe this is a good start.”
“It’s a start, but our view is that this announcement is a few drops of rain in a desert,” he said. “It’s probably about 10 per cent of what is required.
“This is such a massive problem. It is bigger than heroin, cocaine and marijuana combined, and until the State Government starts dedicating serious money to this it will continue to be a serious problem.”
Shadow health minister Roger Cook accused the State Government of copying Labor’s policy, but cautiously welcomed the proposal as a “better than nothing scenario”. “But what we need is a more comprehensive approach, little bits here and there in relation to policies concerning meth aren’t good enough,” he said.
Royal Perth Hospital emergency department doctor David McCutcheon gave an insight into his experiences of the meth problem, which he said was getting worse. “Every emergency department around Perth and regional WA is seeing multiple patients a day who we have to hold down and sedate with medication for the staff’s own safety, and the patient’s safety,” he said yesterday.
“They come in agitated, psychotic, delusional and it’s a big issue, it’s dangerous. We also get things such as domestic violence, road accidents and social problems — all of that is part of meth and part of the problem.”
“But these nurses will help by being able to counsel a patient about their drug use and what their needs are and direct them to rehabilitation.”