Mental health’s ‘looming loss’

Eastern Ranges General Practice Association (ERGPA), which covers some of the worst hit parts of the Yarra Valley, said the move would leave more than 600 patients without urgent mental health care in Marysville, Kinglake and Healesville.

ERGPA CEO Kristin Michaels told MO she was forced to contemplate the move after budget projections found keeping the nurses, who work closely with GPs in the region, would lose $70,000 this financial year.

The division is reimbursed for the nurses under the Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program (MHNIP), under which Medicare provides a $240 incentive payment for each 3.5-hour session in which the nurse visits two patients. 

Ms Michaels said the payment had not changed since its introduction in 2007, but inflation and the significant travel requirements required by ERGPA nurses to see patients has brought the cost to $320 per session. That is despite many of the nurses paying their own expenses such as car,