Barrett Centre closure: Lawrence Springborg asked for oversight of possible cuts to service provision, inquiry told
Former Queensland health minister Lawrence Springborg asked for oversight of "major changes to service provision", an inquiry into the controversial closure of Queensland's only residential youth mental health facility has heard.
The Barrett Centre in Brisbane was shut by the Liberal National government in early 2014.
Within eight months of the centre's closure, three former patients — Will Fowell, Caitlin Wilkinson and Talieha Nebauer — died.
The Barrett Adolescent Centre Commission of Inquiry is examining the reasons for the closure and the care and support provided for former patients, their families and staff.
Former deputy director-general Dr Michael Cleary was chairman of a committee tasked with reviewing up to $120 million in budget cuts, which had been identified as part of the Newman government's plan to balance the state's books.
He told the inquiry when Mr Springborg became health minister in 2012, he "specifically requested that any decisions about major changes to service provision be referred to him through the director-general so that they could be given active consideration".
The inquiry earlier heard an expert panel said a residential service like the Barrett Centre was essential and health officials promised appropriate interim services would be available for patients.
Parents have said that did not happen.
Dr Cleary said he believed the Barrett Centre was an outdated model of care which was to be replaced by a suite of community-based services.
"The minister had requested that he be consulted where there were savings strategies that were being introduced which may have had an impact on patient care so that he could, I assume, give consideration to those and seek from the director-general, perhaps, an alternative strategy or even to decline the strategy," he said.
"This arose as I recall because one of the health services who was implementing some savings strategies implemented some strategies that could potentially have impacted adversely on patients and my interpretation is that the minister wanted to ensure that that didn't happen on future occasions."
Assistant counsel assisting Cathy Muir QC asked if "any decision affecting the operation of [the Barrett Centre] would be a major change to service provision under the direction that you'd been given?"
Dr Cleary replied: "Yes, that would be correct."
Source: ABC News