Queensland Health’s ‘unacceptable’ letter
COMMUNITY groups were left stunned when Queensland Health asked them to list what state electorates they provided mental health services in during a funding round last month.
Health Minister Steven Miles was forced to intervene when the shock letter left many wondering whether decisions were being made on political grounds.
The letter - sent to applicants who found out later if they were successful or not - came with a list of state electorates grouped by Hospital and Health Services (HHS) and a link to the Electoral Commission of Queensland website so organisations could check boundaries.
"It is requested that your organisation indicates all State Electorates where services are provided for all projects," the letter said.
Queensland Alliance for Mental Health director Jacklyn Whybrow said members had contacted the organisation suspicious of the letter and worried they would be penalised if they didn't comply.
"Members are concerned that it's a political approach," she said.
Following questions from The Courier-Mail, Mr Miles said the Director-General would now send an apology letter.
"The letter was sent by department staff and when I was informed I immediately spoke to the Director-General and said the request for electorate information in the letter was inappropriate and unacceptable," he said.
"He has assured me the letter was sent for data collection purposes unrelated to the tender process."
However, one community group who queried the reason for the letter was told by email it would "assist the Department to identify current and any planned future investment".
A Queensland Health (QH) spokeswoman said: "We reject outright the inference that decisions to fund organisations were politically based."
The politically-messy situation comes amid anger over changes in QH-funded mental health programs.
A new version of the Mental Health Community Support Services for individual recovery allows only for referral from a HHS rather than GPs or self-referral to in-community programs.
QH says that's appropriate as the program is for acutely ill people.
But groups say that will be a further strain on busy hospitals, predicting many would seek help from an emergency department because they didn't know where else to go.
"We are already at an epidemic of self harm, suicide and loss of people's lives," Ms Whybrow said.
"People's lives are at risk with this decision."
She said about 9 groups had missed out on funding in May, but QH disputes that and says only four that applied missed out.