Shortage of addiction specialist clinicians in the WA health system: Greens

Greens spokesperson for Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs Hon Alison Xamon MLC has today called on the Minister for Mental Health to urgently address a shortage of addiction specialist psychiatrists and physicians in the Western Australian health system.

Answers to questions Ms Xamon asked in Parliament have revealed that there are only 2 registered specialist addiction psychiatrists and 14 registered specialist addiction physicians employed in the entire Western Australian health system.

“Further, my questions have exposed the deeply concerning fact that there is only 0.9 full time equivalent of an addiction psychiatrist position, and 0.6 full time equivalent of an addiction physician position currently employed in public hospitals across the whole state,” she said.

“Clearly, psychiatrists and physicians play a vital role in treating addiction.  While the Government’s investment in the Meth Action Plan is welcome, they must not neglect the need for greater numbers of specialist addiction clinicians to improve timely access to treatment services for the many Western Australians with alcohol and other drug addictions.

“It is well established that once a person with an addiction makes the decision to seek help  the speed at which they can access treatment has a direct bearing on the likelihood of a successful outcome.

“There is simply no hope of meeting demand with so few specialist addiction clinicians.

“Many people are entering our hospitals as a consequence of chronic addiction issues, yet once they are admitted to hospital there is little likelihood that they will receive appropriate support to help to begin to address the underlying issue – their addiction.

Ms Xamon said the situation is even worse for people living in the regions.  

“Because there are far fewer services in the regions, public hospitals play a broader role than their metropolitan counterparts.  In this context it is absolutely appalling that there is not one addiction specialist psychiatrist or physician in any regional hospital across the State.

“Given the paltry numbers of practitioners in our health system it is no wonder that key alcohol and other drug treatment providers such as Next Step are having difficulty recruiting medical practitioners.

“The availability of a well trained workforce is pivotal to stemming  the tide of harm that alcohol and other drugs cause in our community.

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