The opening of the long-promised $2 million mental health unit at Maitland Hospital is a welcome addition to the city’s medical facilities.
This commitment, together with the promise of a second public hospital for the city, appeared to have fallen by the wayside, with increasing frustration on the part of the community for the project to get underway and be completed.
Their frustration was largely born out of need, with mental health patients, their loved ones, carers and hospital staff relegated to less than desirable surrounds.
Indeed, the clinical director of Hunter Valley Mental Health Services, Dr Marcia Fogarty, described the inpatient unit as being a “cramped dark mid-century ward”.
Thankfully, all that is now history.
What it has been replaced with is a state-of-the-art space that will enable staff to deliver care to patients more effectively. Patients will be treated in the dignified environment that they deserve.
The need for such a facility in a city the size of Maitland is obvious; and the 24-bed unit will mean that Maitland mental health patients requiring short-term care and treatment for acute episodes of mental illness will not have to travel further afield for help.
It has been a sad indictment on the health system of the past that regional and rural NSW [and Australia as a whole] have been poor cousins to metropolitan areas when it comes to the provision of mental health facilities.
The major refurbishments of regional units, such as the work that has occurred at Maitland Hospital, is a significant step in turning around this trend.
As the Minister for Mental Health, Kevin Humphries, said yesterday, the completion of this project is a huge win for the Maitland community.
This article first appeared on The Maitland Mercury on 29 October, 2013.