Sector News — 23 July 2014

A REPORT has declared the state of the Port Macquarie Base Hospital’s mental health ward as a clinical and corporate risk.

Not enough beds and a lack of ambulatory and community staff are also among the major pitfalls highlighted in the analysis of future and current mental health needs on the Mid North Coast.

But despite the findings of the region’s Mental Health Services Clinical Services Plan (MHSCSP), there has been no further funding secured to improve or expand the service in the State Government’s latest budget.

Nor will a cent of the more than $110 million upgrade of the Base Hospital go directly towards its mental health inpatient unit.

A former hospital draft master plan listed a new mental health centre, comprising 20 acute adult beds, as a “short term priority” almost a decade ago.

Since then, hospital staff have on numerous occasions voiced a dire need to upgrade the unit.

Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams has told the Port News she would continue to fight for more funding in the future.207412-3x2-340x227

But ultimately, she said, the NSW Government could not control how the Local Health District spent its money.

Mental health advocates, carers and former patients of the 12-bed inpatient unit known as Ward1A, say it’s the same empty promise they’ve heard from the mouths of different politicians for decades.

“There’s better accommodation at the dog pound,” a local carer of two, told the Port News.

“The system treats mentally ill people so differently, there’s still so much stigma. There’s not enough funding, there’s no where near enough staff.

“It is just abominable.”

The consolidated MHSCSP 2013 – 2021 for the Mid North Coast Local Health District (MNCLHD) was released in September last year.

According to that report, the 12 bed inpatient unit at the Port Macquarie Base Hospital is of a sub-optimal size and its design and functionality does not meet facility guidelines.

It also reveals there’s a major deficiency in the number of staff operating in ambulatory and community health teams in the region and questions the future of the now-defunct Ellimatta Group home which fuelled a political row between former federal MP Rob Oakeshott and Mrs Williams back in 2012.

MNCLHD chief executive Stewart Dowrick said Ward1A was refurbished the same year, after the new health facility guidelines were introduced.

“This refurbishment has not only improved the general amenity of the ward but also the comfort and safety of patients,” he said.

Mr Dowrick said the need for a redevelopment of the inpatient mental health service was recognised and he agreed previous master planning identified the need for an expanded facility.

He said this was considered, along with other clinical priorities, in planning for the capital project to expand the hospital.

But mental health did not make the cut among the priorities included in the significant upgrade.

“The expansion of mental health facilities remains a high priority for future funding consideration,” Mr Dowrick said.

And a new 24 bed Mental Health Unit for Port Macquarie Base Hospital is one of five priorities for 2014/2015.

This article first appeared on ‘Port News’ on 23 July 2014.

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