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Mental health nurses and clinicians walk off the job

By Karen Keast | Last Updated: 19-11-2013

HACSU members want a better deal. Credit: Natalie Pestana/HACSU

At least 120 psychiatric nurses and mental health clinicians are needed across Victoria’s mental health services, according to the Health and Community Services Union.

Nurses, clinicians and support staff this week began the first of 90 two-hour work stoppages spanning 23 days at mental health facilities across Victoria, in the wake of failed negotiations with the State Government.

Psychiatric nurses and mental health clinicians are demanding a six per cent pay rise per year, improved staffing levels and a cap on community caseloads.

HACSU state secretary Lloyd Williams said staffing shortages and increased demand had resulted in low morale among mental health workers.

“Morale - it’s pretty flat,” he said.

“We have an ageing workforce, who are highly experienced

and highly skilled; they are doing their best to support the new entrants coming in.

“They say to me – we are the ones who are holding up the service and the government just doesn’t seem to get it.

“We need at least 120 additional positions but the government has simply not responded to those issues.”

Mr Williams said the suicide rate in the community was higher than the road toll and mental health was 20 per cent of the health burden but received just 10 per cent of the funding.

He said the mental health system would continue to struggle with attracting and retaining health professionals unless the government provided “decent pay and working conditions”.

“The Chief Psychiatrist’s recent investigation into mental health deaths has confirmed HACSU’s long-held stance that improvements in staffing levels – including more staff for night shift and in high dependency units – and better training for psychiatric nurses and clinicians is critical to fixing the system,” he said.

The government has offered a 2.5 per cent pay rise per year.

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