After suicide attempts, only help to be found was up north
THE family of a 19-year-old man, who has attempted suicide four times in less than two weeks, has hit out at health services in Gladstone and Rockhampton, saying they failed to get him help.
On one occasion, the teenager was taken to Gladstone Hospital by ambulance and under police escort, but was sent home less than four hours later.
His fiancee, who did not want to be named, said he didn't have a history of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
But on August 8 and again on August 12, emergency services were called to their Gladstone home following suicide attempts. The second time, he was taken to hospital.
"They immediately assumed he was on drugs, which he wasn't," the woman said.
"They wouldn't even give us a referral."
On August 17, police and ambulance again took the man to Gladstone Hospital, where he was prescribed anti-psychotics via videolink to Rockhampton.
Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service has confirmed Gladstone's mental health service is closed on weekends.
"After that we took him to Rockhampton to try to get him admitted (to the mental health ward), and they said he didn't meet the criteria of a suicidal person - and this was after the third attempt," the fiancee said.
"She actually said, 'It's not as bad as it looks,' and told us he was probably trying to get attention."
CQHHS acting chief executive officer Rod Boddice said the need for monitoring was determined by the individual's situation and risks, and the support options provided by family/carers or community alternatives.
"We do not support or endorse labelling of patients in any way such as 'attention seeking'," he said.
"Determining the mental health needs of all patients who seek help is our first priority."
But the fiancee said that even after four suicide attempts, Rockhampton Hospital staff still said it would be a four-day wait to see a psychiatrist.
The following day, the man's father took him Townsville, where he was referred to a mental health ward in Brisbane.
"That took 15 hours - when I'd been trying to get that to happen for two weeks here," the fiancee said.
She said the couple knew of seven people who had committed suicide since the start of the year, all men in the same 18-22 year age group.
"It makes you wonder how many of them tried to get help, and couldn't," she said.
PATIENTS presenting to Gladstone Hospital's emergency department who have attempted suicide should be treated immediately, according to Health Minister Lawrence Springborg.
After jetting into town for the Community Cabinet on Monday, Mr Springborg said suicide was a major problem in Queensland, including in towns like Gladstone.
There are a lot of alcohol and drugs that are intricately linked in that area.
"It is a terribly tragic and insidious problem that we have ... it's not getting any better," Mr Springborg said.
Mr Springborg said people presenting to emergency departments after attempting suicide were seen immediately.
"If you go to the emergency department and if a doctor or suitably qualified clinician is concerned, then they can admit that person straight away or refer them to a community provider," Mr Springborg said.
Mr Springborg believed drug and alcohol abuse had contributed to the increase of suicide attempts in the region.
"There are a lot of alcohol and drugs that are intricately linked in that area," he said.
The Minister also said he was working closely with the new Rio Tinto Alcan Here for Health alliance, which connects major players in Gladstone's health community.
"For the best part of two decades there has been a significant moral problem surrounding the future of the Gladstone Hospital. I can indicate that the government is very committed to the future of Gladstone Hospital."
Queensland Health said people presenting to Gladstone Hospital emergency departments who had attempted suicide would be triaged by a nurse and registrar before further decisions were made.
If they required specialist mental health assessment and treatment they were referred to a local mental health service.