ANMF seeks urgent action to bolster mental health workforce

3 May 2021

The ANMF (SA Branch) has written to Health Minister Stephen Wade seeking his response and solutions to shortages within the Mental Health Nurse (MHN) workforce.

Based on our information, the South Australian health system requires an immediate injection of an additional 30-40 MHNs in community and about 100 to fill vacant shifts including those in CALHN. This is only to cover existing workforce shortfall let alone to meet any additional bed capacity which is also desperately required in order to provide relief to consumers and the workforce serving them.

In addition, the costs of sick leave and workcover are also escalating as a result of the pressure and burden on the existing workforce which is unsustainable.
Given the above, we have outlined a number of issues that urgently need to be addressed including:

  • Incentives to attract and retain MHNs, especially into community mental health settings. This could include recruiting to a higher classification level than that which would otherwise attach to the job role.
  • Education. It is a requirement of those working in designated mental health facilities that they be enrolled in or working towards a recognised mental health qualification. There are a number of MHN post graduate programs currently available in SA including at Flinders University and Uni SA. However, there are constraints on graduate numbers due to the limited number of placements the department presently allows, which we understand are capped per university to 50 placements per annum. This needs to be increased urgently in order to allow for rapid expansion and development of the workforce. We also drew to the Minister’s attention the fact that the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Education Centre (ANMEC - the Registered Training Organisation of the ANMF) runs a program, in partnership with Flinders University, that would enable general nurses rapid entry and progression through a recognised mental health program. Information regarding this program can be viewed here.
  • Voluntary Separation Packages (VSPs). We note with serious concern that despite the current and impending chronic shortfall of nurses within the health care system, that VSPs continue to be offered to staff, including 40 nursing staff at CALHN. We seek the Minister’s urgent intervention in ceasing nursing position redundancies and instead implementing a workforce renewal program.

The ANMF (SA Branch) will continue to advocate with and on behalf of members to ensure the issues facing mental health care are appropriately addressed.

View the full letter to the Minister here.