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Queensland Government to Meet its Medical Targets

Although the Queensland Government claims to have reached, and exceeded, its medical recruitment targets six months early, mental health officials have stated the need// for an additional $5 billion for mental health services.

Last year Queensland Health had planned to employ400 more allied health professionals, 500 more nurses and 300 more doctors, by December this year.

According to Health Minister Stephen Robertson the new recruits are on board already.

He said, "That's an extra 311 doctors employed to work in our public hospitals, so we've achieved 104 per cent of our December 2006 target of 300 extra doctors. An extra 1,358 nurses, so we've achieved 272 per cent of our December target of 500 extra nurses."

Mental health officials have said that the government must invest an additional $5 billion to provide better treatment to those struggling with mental illness

The chief executive officer of the Mental Health Council of Australia, John Mendoza said that even with a boost of $4 billion over four years for the new national mental health plan, expenditure still fell short because only 40 percent of mental illness was being treated.

He said,"There is no one arguing that there is not an enormous gap between the provision of services as compared with the prevalence of mental illness."

According to the president of the Australian Medical Association, Mukesh Haikerwal, the states had failed to match the Commonwealth's $1.9 billion funding commitment of 12 percent, instead leaving mental health expenditure at only 7 per cent of the public health budget.

The Premier, Morris Iemma has called for workforce changes to ensure that there was sufficent mental health staff.

The Productivity Commission had recommended the extension of Medicare payments beyond doctors to other health professions by the Federal government in January in order to overcome chronic staff shortages. It also rec ommended that the role of nurse practitioners and other health workers be extended.

Mr Iemma has alleged that the Federal Government is diluting those recommendations, by underestimaing the number of doctors and nurses needed in future.

He said that the NSW wanted an additional 160 doctors, 40 dentists, 2793 nurses and 139 allied health professionals and that without a sustained change, the chances of developing a mental health workforce to meet future needs was "grim".


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