Politics — 29 October 2014

The South Australian government will open 18 new acute mental health beds as it works to reduce overcrowding at hospital emergency departments.

Medical officers have warned that people with mental health issues were being left in ‘appalling’ conditions in EDs for days without appropriate treatment.hospital-484848_1280

Health Minister Jack Snelling told parliament the new beds would help to ease pressure on hospitals and improve services for mental health patients.

An eight-bed short stay unit will be opened at Flinders Medical Centre in November, along with four new beds at the mental health unit at Lyell McEwin Hospital.

A new six-bed in-patient unit will also be opened in Mt Gambier in April 2015.

The new beds will add to the 12 opened in Whyalla and Berri earlier this year.

‘It is completely unacceptable to me that we have mental health patients waiting for days at a time for admission into an acute bed,’ Mr Snelling said.

‘An emergency department is not an appropriate setting for ongoing care of people experiencing an acute episode.’

Concern has been expressed to me and raised publicly that this could further stigmatise patients.

‘Efforts to open new beds had taken longer than anticipated because of difficulties in recruiting psychiatrists, Mr Snelling said.

The state’s mental health system treats about 34,000 people with a mental illness each year.

This article first appeared on ‘Sky News’ on 28 October 2014.

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