State and federal politicians deliberate as Peel Health Hub calls intensify

Federal and state politicians have deliberated over who will fund two new positions at the Peel Health Hub, as calls for funding from service providers intensify.

The resourcing issue at the Australian-first clinic became apparent after the Mandurah Mail spoke with Peel Youth Medical (PYMS) spokeswoman Eleanor Britton in August, who said the clinic, which opened in November 2018, was a "victim of its own success".

In 2016, eight suspected suicides from Rockingham to Harvey prompted a rethink of healthcare services being offered in the region.

Read More on the issue:

Ms Britton said the number of appointments made at PYMS, which helps young people with complex problems including mental health, drug and alcohol issues, had doubled since it joined other health service organisations at the Peel Health Hub last year.

The Hub at the Allnutt Street clinic in Mandurah was designed for nine organisations to communicate and assist clients under one building, so young people would not fall through the cracks.

But, Ms Britton said organisations were struggling to meet clients' needs due to the increased demand, with Allambee Counselling executive officer Nicole Lambert and Palmerston spokesman Bram Dickens echoing the concern.

They said the Hub needed funding to employ care coordinators to assess walk-ins, so every young person would receive help from various organisations as was promised.

Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup, who is also WA Shadow Health Minister, raised the issue with Health Minister Roger Cook in Parliament last Thursday, calling for the trial of a care coordinator at the Hub.

"My concern, and undoubtedly also the concern of the member for Mandurah (David Templeman), is that because of the overwhelming number of young people who are presenting at Peel Health Hub, they might not be seen on time and end up in the emergency department or elsewhere," he said.

Mr Kirkup told Parliament he wrote to the minister about a month ago, asking to trial a care coordinator, which would cost $300,000 for two full-time equivalents.

Mr Cook agreed the coordinators were needed, but said it was a federal government responsibility to do the "heavy lifting" in funding these services, as it does with organisations like headspace.

"We want people to be able to access these sorts of intervention services early in their mental health journey, for want of a better description, to ensure they get back on the road to recovery," he said.

"We will continue to work with the commonwealth government to make sure that we have better joined-up services."

A spokesman for Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told the Mail the Coalition government provided funding to the WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), which commissions services across the state, independent of government.

"Local member Andrew Hastie discussed the additional proposal for care coordinators with Minister Hunt during the minister's visit to the electorate," he said.

"The minister encouraged the organisation to work with WAPHA to explore funding opportunities.

"The Department of Health will also work with the WAPHA to assess the needs of the Hub, and discuss any opportunities for care coordinators."

Mr Hastie said the federal government invested hundreds of millions of dollars every year in primary health care, including in services for Mandurah.

"I'm happy to work with Minister Cook on this issue, but he needs to stop politicising it and demonstrate some commitment to Mandurah," he said.

Mr Kirkup said Mr Cook's response in parliament was "incredibly disappointing".

"When I was advocating on behalf of some of our most vulnerable people, this wasn't about petty party politics, this was a genuine appeal on behalf of our community, but this minister turned his back on us," he said.

If you or someone you know needs urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline (5 to 25 years) on 1800 55 1800.