War veterans will be less likely to seek mental health treatment once a current Adelaide hospital facility moves, a State Parliamentary committee hearing has been told.
Ward 17 of Adelaide’s Repatriation Hospital at Daw Park will close at the end of 2017, with future services to be provided at suburban Glenside.
Guy Bowering served in Afghanistan and Iraq but was discharged from the defence forces last year when his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) became overwhelming.
“I had lost the ability to read or count past three,” he said.
Mr Bowering said Ward 17 had been a home-like environment for him and other struggling veterans, a place he said was without stigma.
“It actually makes it more acceptable for a lot of veterans who are in a very bad way with PTSD, they will actually accept service at the Repat site,” he said of the current service.
“They found it very hard [to learn] that they were going to be put on a general mental health site. The problem with that is we end up with people who resist treatment.”
The South Australian Government has been under fire since announcing it would close the Repatriation Hospital, with some veterans protesting for months outside Parliament House.
Mr Bowering told the parliamentary committee Ward 17 played a vital role in suicide prevention.
Nurse resigned over PTSD support move
Former Ward 17 nurse Chris Doerr said medical support would be downgraded under the planned changes and she too thought veterans would be less likely to seek help once services moved to Glenside at the end of next year.
“There is this shoehorn approach where they’re just going to kind of put them in wherever they can, so essentially we will lose that integrated one-stop shop model of care,” she said.
Ms Doerr said she resigned as a Ward 17 nurse after 30 years because of the Transforming Health changes the SA Government was making.
But Professor Dorothy Keefe of SA Health said worries about the coming changes were unnecessary.
“People who are in hospital will have the vast majority of needs met at the Glenside PTSD centre … occasionally they will have another physical need that will require a little travel but that will actually be quite uncommon,” she said.
“It was particularly the younger veteran groups that wanted to have this new site with a purpose-built PTSD centre because, for them, they find it very difficult to go to Ward 17.”
This piece by Claire Campbell was published on “ABC NEWS’ on October 28, 2016.