Advocate's fears over plans to move mentally ill patients into community

FORMER Bloomfield Hospital chaplain and advocate for the mentally ill Sister Mary Trainor is concerned about a new system to move mental health patients into the community.

“This was tried before with the Richmond report and it won’t work,” she said.

“Only three days ago I was told by a woman who has a daughter who has been very ill with a mental health problem. She says the Mental Health Act is a major issue because it only covers people who are a danger to themselves or someone else. A lot of people fall between the cracks as it is now.”

Sister Mary says unless the new plan, devised by the Western NSW Local Health District brings with it a lot more planning and funding to provide enough workers in the community, it cannot succeed.

“Riverside has already been emptied out at Bloomfield. While I understand the process and the word ‘normalise’ in the way it relates to the lifestyle of a person with a mental illness, there are many people who simply will not have an appropriate quality of life unless they are cared for in an environment such as Bloomfield.”

The health district announced the new plan on Thursday, the result of a review recommending the high number of mental health patients at Bloomfield be reduced, with people to be moved into and supported in the community.

Health district  representatives denied the plan was a cost-cutting measure, revealing Orange had the highest number of mental health  patients in any facility in Australia outside a capital city.

Sister Mary said many people with a mental illness were fortunate to have supportive families who helped them day-to-day  in the community    to live fulfilling lives.

“But we do have people who have no-one and I worry about what’s in store for them if this goes ahead,” she said.

She said housing people in group homes was difficult as it could lead to conflict among people with  different mental health issues.

“And yet some people should not be left to live alone,” she said.

The health district said the review was carried out by a New Zealand-based specialist health team,  which visited Orange and consulted widely with  management, clients, staff and carers before releasing the findings.

The health district says at this stage no staff cuts are planned, however, when the new care model is rolled out in six months time, some Bloomfield staff roles may change.


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