Queensland reveals mental health inquiry, blames Morrison government for funding shortfall

The Palaszczuk government has launched an attack on the commonwealth’s “exploding” cost of medical care under Scott Morrison’s watch amid heavy scrutiny on Queensland’s mental health funding shortfall.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath revealed on Tuesday the state government will launch an inquiry into mental health services after media reports showed the state had the lowest funding across the country.

Specialised mental health services per capita in Queensland was $241.28 in 2018-19, according to a Courier-Mail investigation, behind all other jurisdictions with WA, NT and SA spending between $325.43, $292.25.

“We need to shine a light on mental health and better understand the needs and demand pressures across the mental health system,” Ms D’Ath told Queensland parliament when announcing the Parliamentary Inquiry into Mental Health Services.

In 2021, 70 per cent of GP presentations were mental health related, up from 61 per cent in 2017.

Queensland reveals mental health inquiry, blames Morrison government for funding shortfall

Camera IconMs D’Ath announced a parliamentary inquiry into mental health services. NCA NewsWire / Jono Searle Credit: News Corp Australia

The Palaszczuk government invested $74 million into a mental health and wellbeing package following the increased pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the Health Minister revealed states were lobbying the federal government for a funding overhaul.

“We are also currently negotiating with the commonwealth to finalise a new National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement and five-year bilateral arrangements for state and commonwealth government investment in mental health,” Ms D’Ath said.

“With primary health wait times and out of pocket expenses having exploded under the Morrison government: out of pocket specialist costs have increased by nearly 51 per cent across Queensland since 2012-13, and out of pocket GP costs have increased by 33 per cent across Queensland since 2012-13.”

In comparison, Ms D’Ath said the Medicare rebate for psychology visits had only increased by $2.65 since 2006.

Queensland reveals mental health inquiry, blames Morrison government for funding shortfall

Camera IconThe Palaszczuk government said the federal counterpart had increased out of pocket expenses for mental health care. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

“The Australian Association of Psychologists also have reported that raising the Medicare rebate will enable more psychologists to bulk bill; enabling more clients to stay in treatment so their condition is adequately treated and allowing greater retention of psychologists in the profession,” she told parliament.

Queensland opposition frontbencher Jarrod Bleijie has repeatedly blasted the Palaszczuk government’s health management and asked if it “only takes action in a moment of crisis and when the issue hits the media?”

The Health Minister reiterated her criticism of the Morrison government, blaming the commonwealth for “a lot of market failures in the private sector which are pushing people into our public hospital system”.

“But we know there’s more work to be done (and) that’s why we’re establishing the policy committee,” she said.

“We don’t shy away from those demands and those needs and that’s why we have announced this inquiry today.”

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