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Banksia Mental Health Unit – Question without notice

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
13 November 2019

Ms CATE FAEHRMANN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women.

Minister, mental health admissions to New England Hospital have more than doubled from 2014 to 2018 and 12,000 people have signed a petition calling for an upgrade of the Banksia acute mental health unit in Tamworth. The past two budgets have mentioned this proposed upgrade as a line item but no price tag has been put on the project. The Minister has said the upgrade is a high priority for the Government. Will the upgrade be fully funded in next year's budget?

The Hon. BRONNIE TAYLOR (Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women): I thank the honourable member for her question about the Banksia unit. I was there last week—or was it the week before? I have recently visited Banksia and met with the community group that is advocating for an upgrade to that facility. I had a full tour of the facility. I start by acknowledging that Banksia has incredible staff who do amazing work. They have recently had an upgrade due to the therapeutic environment funding and they have done some terrific work. Often what happens in these facilities that are a lot older—and, actually, Banksia is not that old; it was originally built in the 1990s—is that they are not built in a way that makes them as therapeutic and as good as our newer mental health facilities.

Banksia is a priority for me. That is why I went out and saw it, because I need to see things. I need to go and physically see it, see how it is working and talk to the staff. The unit is fortunate in the sense that Tamworth has five psychiatrists working there and a very good team of staff. I am informed that the clinical services planning for Hunter New England mental health services, which includes Banksia, is in its final stages. To go forward with redevelopments, the process is that it is part of the clinical services plan, which we refer to as the CSP. When it is in the CSP then we can go forward and keep planning, and that is exactly what is happening with that. That started in 2018. It has involved consultation with over 350 staff, patients and community members and will inform the direction of mental health services and enhancements across the district.

As the honourable member alluded to in her question when she talked about mental health admissions in the New England area, Banksia is the centre of excellence for that section of New South Wales, so it is seeing lots of people from right across that wide area. As I said, the specific planning for an improved unit will be undertaken in the context of the CSP. The budget allows for a $700 million infrastructure upgrade. Because I am going to be responsible and there are lots of places asking for upgrades and refurbishments, we will work with Hunter New England, we will look at the clinical services plan, we will look for what they tell us is the best and optimal result for them and we look forward to those plans coming forward. But, yes, it is a priority for me and I do not walk away from that.

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
13 November 2019
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