Two of WA's leading doctors have called on the Barnett Government to put more money into "understaffed and overburdened" community mental health clinics if it wants to ease pressure on swamped emergency departments.
Statewide mental health admissions to EDs at four-hour-rule hospitals in the March 2012 quarter rose to 4423, up from 3670 in the same quarter last year - an increase of 20.5 per cent and well above the 7 per cent increase in total ED attendances over the same period.
Prominent psychiatrist and former Australian Medical Association WA president Paul Skerritt said patients were forced into EDs because "understaffed, inefficient and underfunded" clinics did not have the capacity to deal with them.
Dr Skerritt defended doctors at Fremantle Hospital who had come under fire for discharging several patients shortly before they committed suicide.
"The Government, who don't provide enough beds, don't cop it when something goes wrong - professionals do," he said, adding it was common for a bed not to be available anywhere in the city, especially on weekends.
AMA WA president Richard Choong said the community mental health sector needed more specialist psychiatrists, mental health nurses and more home services.
"The Government has not put sufficient funding into the specialist mental health sector," he said.
Shadow mental health minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said getting people out of hospital and into the community was good in theory, but community mental health services had to be drastically improved to achieve this.
Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said the Government had spent $12.8 million on two, 22-bed facilities in Joondalup and Rockingham and $2.5 million for a facility in the Goldfields, as well as in more than 150 inpatient beds at hospitals across the State.
"We have also invested $55.2 million for 116 homes and $29.8 million for 118 packages for people with mental illness to move out of hospital and live in their own home, freeing up more beds," she said.