The north west cannot keep enough trained staff in the region to manage mental health problems, a senate inquiry has been told.
The inquiry is investigating higher rates of suicide in the bush and how services can be better supported by government.
Local witnesses revealed how the constant draining of qualified staff can disengage vulnerable people seeking help.
Relationships crumble during shaky transitions in staff, the inquiry was told during a public hearing in Mount Isa on Tuesday.
Inquiry chair Senator Rachel Siewert was told high staff turnover can even lead to “novices in the field”.
“It is a big problem around Australia, it is absolutely consistent wherever we have gone,” Senator Siewert said.
Governments have tried every trick in the book to keep health professionals in the regions. Cheap accommodation, generous salaries, professional development have not fixed the problem.
Senator Siewert says there needs to be more focus on training locals, who are much more likely to keep working in the region.
“There are some things we can be doing to address the retention of the workforce, but what was made really clear in this region is that the support is not there,” Senator Siewert said.
“The funding people are getting is not enabling training and support and that undermines your retention of staff.”
Senator Siewert said she expects staff retention will be addressed in the inquiry’s final recommendations.
Centacare north Queensland director Heather Alexander agreed funding needs to be more flexible to give local organisations more power to retain their mental health professionals.
“Staff retention means you are going to be able to build a relationship with a client. High turnover causes confusion with the client because they have to tell their story numerous times,” Ms Alexander said.
“I think it is not necessarily about more money but about how that money is designed to be delivered to allow us a little bit more flexibility over what we can spend that money on.
“To have an overarching budget for recruitment, retention and training is important as long as we get to decide how we spend it,” she said.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.