Overworked staff led to deaths: coroner

FREMANTLE MLA Simone McGurk says it’s unfathomable the Barnett government continues to cut staff from Fremantle Hospital’s mental health unit despite a coroner’s report slamming under-resourcing.

Late last week coroner Ros Fogliani delivered her findings into the suicides of five patients of the Alma Street unit, and found over-work led to staff making poor decisions that ultimately cost lives.

Coroner Fogliani made numerous adverse findings against the hospital and a senior doctor over the deaths in 2011/12. The Herald’s full report on the findings can be found on our web page.

In response to recent questions in state parliament, Ms McGurk says the department revealed there were 50 fewer staff working at Alma Street now than in 2014, half from redundancies and the remainder from unfilled vacancies.

“The coroner very explicitly calls for our mental health system to be properly resourced,” Ms McGurk says.

“This report is clear evidence that government cuts to our health system have a direct and dangerous impact on Western Australians.”

Fremantle Hospital executive director David Blythe denies outright there have been any staff cuts.

“No mental health staff, including psychologists, have been offered or received a redundancy or been reassigned,” he told the Herald.

The Herald also heard complaints from the families of patients that access was being restricted, but Mr Blythe says that’s simply a procedural change to ensure the safety of patients and staff.

Former Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri feels vindicated by the coroner’s report.

Back in 2009, the Herald reported the-then mayor warning about dire consequences of staff cuts after he was given a leaked report.

He drove past the hospital this week after visiting a relative, with the youth mental health facility he’d copped flak for supporting catching his eye.

“I could not see any signs of life, although I obviously couldn’t see inside,” he told the Herald.

Cottages opposite the hospital that are associated with the mental health unit also looked empty.
Mr Blythe confirmed two of the cottages had been vacated by mental health service providers, and no decision on their future had been made.

“There are no plans to close the Alma Street Centre at Fremantle Hospital,” he said.


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