A rose by any other name would stink just as much

5 minute read

The new mental health clinics are MUCCs for the mind, with about as much evidence.

And so it goes. The federal government fell in love with Medicare urgent care clinics, as a supposedly robust solution to emergency department “pressure” and now we’re going to be seeing our taxpayer dollars spent on Medicare mental health clinics as well.

They will, allegedly, reduce the “pressure” on GPs and other mental health practitioners.

There’s no evidence for any of it, other than cherry-picked DoHAC data about the number of patients seen at UCCs.

And let’s not forget the “fake patients” stunt at Colac Area Health’s urgent care clinic, laid bare earlier this month in Health Services Daily.

During a 9 August 2023 visit by Victorian health minister Mary-Anne Thomas, healthy staff members posed as patients in ward beds and ambulance trolleys to make the UCC look busier than it was.

The wife of Victorian Liberal MP Richard Riordan, Catherine Riordan was revealed as the mastermind of the stunt. Ms Riordan reportedly works for the CAH in a community engagement and communications role.

CAH interim CEO Steve Moylan apologised for the stunt and said the organisation was “committed to improving”, while DoHAC described it as “inappropriate” even though there was no impact to patient care at the time.

Earlier this week, health minister Mark Butler revealed that the 61 new “Medicare mental health clinics” announced in the budget will actually be rebranded Head to Health centres, even though a full evaluation of the 26 existing H2H centres had not yet been completed.

Not that that phased him in any way.

“The rebranding is not a big thing in itself,” he said.

“We found that there wasn’t much recognition of these centres, so rebranding them as Medicare Mental Health Centres we think will lift their profile.

“Much more importantly, we’re refocusing and extending their work to make sure that they focus really on people with more complex needs.

“That is really the gap in the system. There really is not enough support out there for people with complex needs. It’ll refocus their work and they’ll also receive extra money to lift their clinical capabilities – their connections with psychiatrists, with psychologists and with GPs as well.”

Mr Butler brushed off the suggestion from the ABC’s Sabra Lane that expanding the H2H without evaluation made no sense.

“The evaluation will continue while we’re rolling out the 61 but we don’t want to roll out centres that don’t have a high profile, don’t have the clinical capability we need, and don’t have the focus that’s demanded out there for more support for complex needs,” he said.

“We always committed to rolling out the full 61, and the evaluation obviously will continue, but we’re committed to getting these out into the community, providing more support to people with complex needs.

“That’s in addition to the money we provided in the Budget for more support for GPs who do so much of the frontline work in mental health.

“They’ll be able to access social workers, mental health nurses and a range of other supports to provide, again, that wrap around care that people with more complex needs really demand.”

All of this should rightly piss off general practitioners, as written by HSD’s publisher Jeremy Knibbs over at our sister publication, The Medical Republic, today.

“There wasn’t just nothing in this week’s budget for general practice, there was a shopping list of healthcare initiatives and investments which will add significantly over time to fragmentation of the care GPs try to provide,” Jeremy wrote.

Whatever message the DoHAC was sending GPs last year with the tripling of the bulk-billing incentive and “Strengthening Medicare” – and don’t get me started on “Medicare heroes” – that message went up in a puff of smoke on Tuesday night.

Butler on digital mental health initiative: ‘It will be humans’

Colac farce orchestrated by Liberal MP’s wife

Meanwhile, this weekend marks the anniversary of the Health Services Daily’s debut. We’re thriving, I’m happy to say.

Back in May last year, founding HSD editor Amanda Sheppeard turned to me and said “we’re never going to be short of content”.

She wasn’t wrong. Our biggest problem, every day, is narrowing down what’s newsworthy to just eight articles.

It’s a good problem to have, and we thank all of you who have subbed up and supported us for the past year. Long may it continue.

Here are our top 10 articles from the past 12 months:

  1. Time to be brave about midwives’ scope of practice
  2. DoHAC to radically alter PHN data extraction metaverse
  3. Rumours rumble on for Telstra Health and Ramsay
  4. Leaked EY report shows crisis in private health sector
  5. Lack of Chief Allied Health Officer ‘erodes goodwill’
  6. College board parts ways with CEO days after AGM (updated)
  7. Damning audit shows PHN model’s efficacy ‘not demonstrated’
  8. Australia’s best hospitals, and how they rank globally
  9. Third Degree with Aniello Iannuzzi: Defund PHNs and give it to GPs
  10. Uber Health (official) is here and growing fast … gulp

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