The impending closure of a Brisbane mental health facility for young people distressed its residents further and led to more “incidents”, a review has found.
Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announced in August 2013 that the Barrett Adolescent Centre would shut in five months and alternative care would have to be found.
Three former patients have died since its closure in January, with the coroner investigating.
A report, commissioned by Queensland Health, into how the transition was handled was released today.
However, the planning occurred in an atmosphere of crisis as the deadline loomed.
The report’s co-author, associate professor Beth Kotze, said there was an escalation of distress in a number of adolescents.
“There appears to have been a contagion effect of distress and anxiety amongst the adolescents and an increase number incidents,” she said.
“Contagion is a common issue. When one young person is agitated or distressed it does travel to another, it was an expected event.”
The number of incidents was not released, nor their severity.
Professor Kotze said the closure process was rushed but it did not increase risk.
“It is very difficult to say it was ideal,” professor Kotze told Brisbane ABC 612.
“Because certainly the ideal is that you take it at the young person’s pace, I think there was a sense of rush.”
Neither the centre’s residents, nor their family were interviewed for the report.
Whether or not the three deaths this year were linked to the centre’s closure was also not examined.
Ms Kotze said it was not the terms of reference.
Family said closure affected patient badly
Ann, the grandmother of former patient Molly, said the transition process was not long enough.
Molly had been at the centre for two years and Ann would have preferred if Molly trialled her new treatment before the centre shut.
“They should have gradually been transitioned,” Ann told 612 ABC Brisbane.
“The announcement of the closure affected her badly.
“You can’t tell them … that they have to leave the place that has kept them alive and safe.
“If it weren’t for the Barrett staff I don’t think she would be here today.”
Ann criticised the report’s authors for not interviewing patients.
“I find it hard to believe they can do an independent report without input from the adolescents or their parents,” she said.
Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs Branch executive director Bill Kingswell was on the committee which oversaw the transition process.
He said although everyone was not consulted for today’s report, a large amount of written material was examined.
“The people on who were on the receiving end left a really extensive paper trail that the team were able to review,” he said.
This article first appeared on ‘ABC‘ on 5 November 2014.