Call for drug, grog services

The entrance to Geelong's public emergency department. Picture: Rebecca Hosking 194318

By Luke Voogt

An ice-fuelled rampage in Geelong’s public emergency department (ED) last week has prompted union calls for additional drug and alcohol (AOD) specialists.

A single AOD specialist worked in Geelong’s ED overnight, Health and Community Services Union assistant secretary Paul Healey revealed.

“There’s just not the staffing,’ he said.

“It’s very distressing for others in the waiting room and it’s very unsettling for staff to work in an environment with violence or the potential for violence.”

The ED needed at least two specialists overnight as some assessments and treatments could take several hours, Mr Healey said.

More than one drug-affected patient presenting at once could create a backlog, he said.

“We don’t believe anyone should fall through the system cracks and be sent away untreated.”

Mr Healey praised State Government’s plans to build a mental health emergency hub at University Hospital Geelong by 2021.

But he urged government to bring forward funding for more AOD specialists now.

Barwon Health rostered one AOD specialist to work in ED overnight, mental health, drugs and alcohol services director Steve Moylan confirmed.

But other specialist staff, including consultant psychiatrists, were available to assist when required, Assoc Prof Moylan said.

“Barwon Health has highly-skilled and experienced mental health professionals providing 24/7 support at University Hospital Geelong’s ED.”

Two to four AOD specialists worked in the ED during the day and evening, Assoc Prof Moylan said.

State Government recently established a Royal Commission into mental health to prompt some “of the most significant reform” Victoria had “ever seen”, Mental Health Minister Martin Foley said.

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