An evaluation of a psychiatric service to rural areas of South-west Queensland

Johnston, Bradley (1992). An evaluation of a psychiatric service to rural areas of South-west Queensland M.A. Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Johnston, Bradley
Thesis Title An evaluation of a psychiatric service to rural areas of South-west Queensland
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1992
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Total pages 269
Language eng
Subjects 321021 Psychiatry
730209 Rural health
Formatted abstract A psychiatric service was developed to provide mental health care to the underserved population of south-west Queensland. Traditional models of service delivery were found to be unsuitable in these rural areas of outback Australia. The unique environment created barriers like vast distances, scattered population and economic constraints which precluded the use of permanent facilities in the rural communities. A travelling multidisciplinary team model was adopted. Emphasis was placed on consultative services, continuity of care, education and support for local health workers.

Census-based community profiles were obtained for six rural communities. Key informant needs surveys were carried out in four of these regions. Needs expressed in the surveys plus positive attitudes toward a new psychiatric service, led to the establishment of regular outpatient clinics in the six towns over a four year period.

Comprehensive data on the operation of the service was collected for five years. During this time, 762 new patients were assessed and there were 2668 patient contacts. The most common patient profile was of a married, female with a diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder. Patients were treated for an average of three visits, over a two month period. Most patients were referred to the clinics by local medical personnel.

Patients' attitudes toward the service were assessed following discharge. Results of a mailed survey showed that patients rated the service as being helpful in the resolution of their problems. Health care workers in the rural areas were assessed using a structured interview. They rated the service as effective in providing care but as having little impact on the community in general.

Examination of the impact of the service on a nearby psychiatric hospital produced unexpected results. The number of admissions to the hospital did not alter with the creation of the new service. However the severity of disorders admitted, and the duration of stay increased over the period of study.

The new model of service delivery was assessed as achieving its goal of improving rural residents' access to psychiatric care. Implication of the study for future programs and research are discussed.
Keyword Rural mental health services -- Queensland, Southwestern.
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