Wagga woman tells of friend’s mental anguish in emergency department

Wagga Rural Referral Hospital's Mental Health Unit.
Wagga Rural Referral Hospital's Mental Health Unit.

A Wagga woman has told her harrowing tale of her friend’s experience in the emergency department as she battled with mental demons.

She decided to share her story on social media to shine a light on the issue and plea with the government to change it.

Elizabeth Wait’s Facebook post has been shared nearly 600 times and has garnered more than 1300 reactions since it was posted on Tuesday. 

Ms Wait received a call from mental health support network headspace to pick up her friend, who was suicidal, and take her to the emergency department (ED) at Wagga Rural Referral Hospital (WRRH).

“When we got there we went through the very awkward, very confronting process of being triaged,” Ms Wait said.

“This works great if you are having an allergic reaction or have a broken arm, but thoughts of suicide?”

Ms Wait splits her time between living in Wagga and Melbourne, and said the Victorian capital had a more effective solution in place.

She is calling for a new community health centre, similar to ones that operate in Melbourne, where anyone suffering from mental health issues can go – a more relaxing environment than the ED of a hospital.

She said the centre could be independently run by the community to keep costs down.

“The main issue (with existing facilities) is that the waiting list can be months,” she said.

“The triage process does not accommodate to a person suffering extreme cases of anxiety, depression, panic or suicidal thoughts.”

Ms Wait and her friend were forced to wait six hours before seeing a doctor.

“She was told they only have two people available who are able to handle something like this that's why it took so long,” she said.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District director of mental health and drugs & alcohol Robyn Manzie said the department has apologised to Ms Wait and the triage process of mental health patients at the hospital’s ED would be reviewed.

“We have encouraged her friend to contact us so we can investigate the details of her complaint to make improvements to the care and treatment of mental health patients in the future,” Ms Manzie said.

Ms Wait has started a change.org petition to send to government health ministers to push for more mental health specialist staff at WRRH and to deploy an improved process for treating mental health patients in emergency departments.

If you need help:

  • MLHD Mental Health AccessLine – 1800 800 944.
  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
This story Wagga woman tells of friend’s mental anguish in emergency department first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.