Mental health shake-up: patients moving into the community

MENTAL health patients will be moved from Bloomfield into the community in a bid to provide better outcomes for people with a mental illness.

Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) director of operations Lindsey Gough said a review of mental health services at Bloomfield revealed Orange had the highest concentration of acute and non-acute mental health in-patients in regional Australia.

Ms Gough said the new model of care meant mental health patients in the community would be supported by mental health staff.

She said it is too early to say if wards would close and, although there would be changes to the way mental health nurses cared for their patients, there were no immediate plans for staff cuts.

She said there had been extensive consultation undertaken by the New Zealand-based health review team, who met with management, staff, patients, carers and stakeholders such as Medicare Local,  who all played a part in caringfor someone with a mental illness.

LHD Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Services acting director Adrian Fahy said he was acutely aware of the impact of the changes on the lives of mental health patients, particularly the elderly.

“We have around 34 clients who have lived here for more than 12 months, some of them long term,” he said.

“These people are near and dear to my heart and we will treat each and every case individually.”

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Mr Fahy said there may be potential for some older clients to be rehomed in a nursing home.

Ms Gough said the model of care would involve overhauling the number of nurses needed to work in the community to support people with a mental illness, however, she said it was too early to say whether the care would involve group homes or individual housing for patients.

Mr Fahy said he was confident in the effectiveness of the plan.

“We will have staff available in the community and on the ground,” he said.

“ We really want local staff and to use their expertise.”

Ms Gough said she was pleased the review process had been clear and transparent.

“We now have ahead of us four to six month of detailed planning and we will be working closely with all our staff throughout this process,” she said.

LHD  chief executive officer Scott McLachlan said planning over the next few months would include development of workforce strategies to support the mix of services needed, as well as building multi-disciplinary teams, structures and processes to support the model.

Ms Gough said the Forensic Mental Health unit at Bloomfield would not be impacted by the review.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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