The club was privileged to host and extremely interested in Professor Marie Bismark's presentation last week.
Marie is a psychiatrist, public health physician, health lawyer, and company director. She divides her time between Kāpiti and Melbourne, Australia.
In addition to her clinical work, Marie leads a research team at the University of Melbourne, focusing on the interface between patient safety and clinician wellbeing.
Marie  serves as a Director of several health sector organisations including the Royal Women’s Hospital and Summerset aged care. Her research has influenced regulatory policy in Australia and internationally. Marie completed a Harkness Fellowship at Harvard has been named as one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence. Marie and her husband Matt (whom she met over 25 years ago at a Rotary Science forum!) and have three children.
Marie took the role in the Te Whatu Ora Kāpiti Mental Health Clinic (a publicly funded service) without reservation, thinking she would have the benefit of a supportive team.
Sadly, after resignations, Marie was the sole adult psychiatrist in the service for too long. She staged a one woman strike in support of senior doctors in the health system.
Marie was featured in national media which resulted in additional resourcing to boost security and fortunately, the appointment of additional colleagues.
Marie took us through a typical week in her professional life on the coast, which includes triage, firefighting i.e. providing urgent critical care, planning, advocating for patients' needs, relationship building to try to keep people from tipping over the edge, and improving the system.
The threshold for accessing services is high. The service can only handle 300 people, which leaves about 1,500 local people with serious mental health issues waiting for help.
There is a critical shortage of mental health beds. Marie told us about the high number of elderly people in the region who are isolated and uncared for, which is distressing.
Patients' social circumstances cause or add to a lot of the serious issues the team encounters. Treatment includes medication (which can be truly lifechanging) as well as therapy, getting people's basic needs met and increasing their community connection.
Building trust with less unwell patients can gain their trust so they feel able to seek help sooner and perhaps avoid an acute phase.
Marie said the most helpful thing for the service would be to fit out a safe, reassuring sensory room to help to calm distressed clients. Te Whatu Ora does not fund this.