Mental health and addictions sectors expect skilled staff losses

By Talisa Kupenga

A body representative for a number of non-government mental health and addiction service groups says a staff exodus is looming with higher wages luring staff to the aged care and disability sectors.  Platform Trust Chief executive Marion Blake says she's seeking urgent talks with government to prevent a pending crisis to continue helping those who need it most.

Less stress and more pay is luring mental health and addiction service workers away from the sector.

Platform Trust Chief Executive Marion Blake says, "We've already had a number of people leave and that's in a matter of weeks.

"So it's not about just a pay increase it's about providing a whole range of decent well-resourced support services in communities across New Zealand."

Blake understands the mental health and addiction sectors were originally included in the TerraNova pay equity claim, however a decision to exclude them meant workers would not get a pay rise like aged care and disability workers come July.  Blake wants to discuss both sectors' shortfalls with government.

"Not only is it poorly paid but it is different across the country,” Blake says.

“Each different District Health Board will pay different amounts of money for the same job so we've got a very messy environment across New Zealand, so what we're looking for is some fair funding.  We've got a mental health system that is heading rapidly into crisis and if we don't do something about it, it is going to get worse."

Last month community mental health worker Kim Baldwin told Te Kāea due to the pay rise she was considering a career change.
Blake says she does not have the exact figures, but Baldwin's circumstance was not an isolated case.

"The impact of that means that more people will end up in hospitals acutely unwell which is not what we want."

Te Kāea contacted Minister for Health Dr Johnathan Coleman to see if a meeting would go ahead, he was yet to respond.