‘My job was moved, my office given to someone else’

Leah Wilkinson returned from leave to her job as an inpatient child and adolescent mental health nurse to discover her position ` along with her desk and computer ` had been relocated 40kms away.

Working as a mental health nurse (RN) employed under CAMHSNET, Leah Wilkinson directly suffered the repercussions of the poor planning and lack of consultation behind GSAHS planning. Working as an inpatient child and adolescent mental health nurse at Bega District Hospital, Leah returned to her job after 12 months unpaid leave, to discover her position – along with her desk and computer – had been relocated 40kms away in Pambula.

‘I came back from leave and found my office had been given to someone else. Apparently, while I was away the area mental health managers decided they wanted to base my position in the community CAMHS team based at Pambula, 40kms south of Bega.

‘Someone had packed up my stuff and moved my computer while I was away. It was a horrible feeling. I felt violated and devalued,’ she said.

‘I received no communication from the GSAHS that they were changing my role and the location of the position. There was certainly no consultation and I was doing the role caring for these children and adolescents.’

‘The decision showed a lack of understanding of child and adolescent mental health nursing. These young people need inpatient mental health beds,’ said Leah.

‘It also shows a lack of understanding of my role as inpatient RN. I am trained as an in-patient child and adolescent mental health nurse. The role of a community mental health nurse is quite different and not what I am trained in.

‘Shifting the service away from the hospital to a community mental health service would be a major step backwards,’ said Leah.

Leah informed the NSWNA her position had been changed and relocated.

‘The NSWNA wrote to the GSAHS explaining that while the case is before the Commission the status quo must be maintained and my position cannot be relocated without proper consultation,’ said Leah

‘After a few days of discussions and directives being given, I was finally given some office space at Bega Hospital and my computer was reinstalled. ‘The whole experience has been very traumatic,’ she said.

Spotlight on child & adolescent mental health

A major impact of the AHS restructure will be the relocation of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Network (CAMHSNET) from the Hunter AHS, which previously managed child and adolescent mental health services across the state, to individual AHSs.

CAMHSNET was established in 2003 to connect inpatient mental health services and support child and adolescent mental health nurses who are based in regional hospitals and provide advice to paediatric and general hospital inpatient services.

Instead of children and adolescents having to come to metropolitan areas for treatment, CAMHSNET set up inpatient beds in rural hospitals so these young patients could remain in their local communities.

Nurses employed by CAMHSNET provide consultation liason services in rural and remote hospitals attached to paediatric wards and adult mental health inpatient units.

NSW Health has transferred all the CAMHSNET positions – including vacancies – directly to individual AHSs, rather than positions being managed through the Hunter AHS.

The NSWNA has negotiated that each AHS will have an CNC and an addditional two positions have been created in the Sydney South West AHS.

According to Judith Kiejda, this is a significant improvement on the proposal initially presented by CAMHSNET, which attempted to wipe out 14 positions in the transfer from the Hunter to individual AHSs.