New network may help boost mental health

A new videoconferencing network is hoped to improve delivery of mental health services in regional New South Wales.

More Riverina region mental health patients are able to stay in their home towns for treatment under a new videoconferencing network that connects mental health patients in small hospitals to specialist care at major hospitals across the region.

Developed by Greater Southern Area Health Service (GSAHS), the videoconferencing network is the first of its type in New South Wales.

Paul Lynch, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Mental Health), said the initiative provides virtual assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental health patients by a state-of-the-art videoconference link between the emergency departments at outlying hospitals to a mental health clinician at a base hospital.

"Doctors will be able to prescribe treatment across vast distances without the need for the patient to travel many hours from their homes to a major hospital," Lynch said. "The initiative also aims to improve the coordination and transfer of patients to specialist mental health units if required."

The project will be available in 43 hospitals by the end of 2008. These hospitals will be linked to support centres at mental health in-patient units attached to the base hospitals at Wagga Wagga, Albury and Goulburn.

To date, eight sites have been linked to the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital Support Centre at the inpatient mental health unit, Gissing House. Rollout of the next phase, across the Albury region, will begin in the next few months.

GSAHS is providing ongoing education and training to non-mental health nursing and clinical staff at the hospitals to enhance skills and enable them to provide support to the clinicians involved in the initiative.

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