Psychiatric services safe
VISITING junior doctors working extra shifts should ensure that Lismore’s 40-bed psychiatric clinic is able to operate safely, according to the area’s health chief.
Although there are only 4.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) psychiatric registrars at the unit at the moment, North Coast Area Health Service CEO Chris Crawford said ‘safe services can be maintained’ with the help of the visiting staff.
Registrars are senior doctors who are receiving advanced training in a specialist field of medicine in order to become a consultant.
There was funding available for seven registrars at the mental health unit of Lismore Base Hospital, but it had never filled that complement, Mr Crawford said. It had functioned efficiently with 6.2 FTE staff in the past.
The Northern Star reported yesterday that a Lismore psychiatric registrar, Chris Stephenson, had been injured in a car crash last Sunday, and that this was likely to have a serious impact on staffing numbers at the unit.
But Mr Crawford said the 4.3figure did not include Dr Stephenson.
He said he was confident another two doctors would be joining the unit soon, bringing it up to full strength.
The North Coast Area Health Service was working ‘very hard’ to get more people, he said.
Registrars routinely travel around different hospitals in order to gain experience of differentpatient types, typically spending six months in one institution before moving on.
One psychiatric registrar had finished his term in Lismore and ret-urned to Sydney this week.
Mr Crawford also said there had been considerable extra funding made available for the new mental health unit, which had an adolescent facility and 15 beds added in 2008.
Another $5 million a year wasbeing spent on the Lismore unit, which brought total expenditure up to $9.4 million, he said. Much of this would go towards staffing, although there would be some spent on medication.