OHS win at Bathurst Base

Staff at a poorly designed methadone clinic are pleased with the units refurbishment.

After two years of working in claustrophobic conditions with a sea of OHS problems, staff at the Chifley Clinic at Bathurst Base Hospital are celebrating the refurbishment of the methadone unit.

The new design features a soundproofed waiting room, better security measures, suitable admin space, its own toilet and a kitchenette.

Originally the methadone clinic was one of a number of badly-designed areas in the hospital.

‘There were no work areas for staff, and inadequate storage,’ the unit’s NUM Helen Gotch told The Lamp. ‘To do case management you had to leave the unit and go out and use a room in mental health. The acoustics were terrible. People dosing could hear conversations from clients in the waiting room and vice versa. And clients had a clear view into the dosing rooms, giving them too much visual access to staff, the drug safes and paperwork.’

Staff had to leave the unit, go through the mental health’s reception area and into another part of the hospital to use the toilet, and were physically at risk in the hallway outside the waiting room.

‘There were four doors opening into this miniscule corridor, so if any of them opened and you were in the hallway, the likelihood was you’d be smacked in the head by the doors,’ said Helen.

After a visit to the unit by the NSWNA’s OHS officer, who identified it as ‘one of the worst workplaces from an OHS perspective’, Greater Western Area Health Service (GWAHS) carried out its own risk management assessment and agreed there were problems.

‘It was very claustrophobic – a bit like cabin fever – and there was no good work flow,’ said Helen. ‘If we wanted to have a team meeting or when we did clinical reviews with our prescriber we had to leave the unit area and go into mental health, so we had to physically move our dosing carts into another area. It was stressful and frustrating.’

GWAHS agreed to a redesign of the unit and to implement interim risk measures, which included installing peepholes in the doors leading out on to the hallway so staff could check there was no one coming before opening them.

According to Helen, staff were consulted on the new design ‘100 per cent’ and are pleased with the result.

‘The client waiting room has been soundproofed so clients dosing can’t hear conversations coming from the waiting room and vice versa. The big glass window that allowed clients to see into the dosing room has been removed,’ she explained. ‘By doing that we were able to put the safes against that wall, which has enlarged the space for staff in the dosing room.

‘We’ve been given a room that was originally for community mental health and that is now my office, and the case managers and admin staff have a workspace too. We can have our team meetings and clinical reviews in the unit now.’

The creation of a small kitchenette has boosted staff morale, Helen added. ‘Because we open at 6.30am and staff don’t stop for a break until around 11.30am they can now at least easily access tea and coffee and this is great for morale. We also now have our own toilet in the unit for staff only.’

Helen praised both the Union and the hospital’s drug and alcohol management team for their support, which ultimately led to a safer and much more comfortable working environment for staff.

‘Once everyone got together and determined what the needs were, things moved along quite well,’ she said. ‘Staff are very much looking forward to working in the new space.’

As The Lamp went to press, the refurbishment was due to be completed.