Acute inpatient mental health services neglected in Western Sydney

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has spoken out about a growing level of neglect towards the provision of acute inpatient mental health services in Western Sydney.

The NSWNMA highlighted its concerns publicly after members described their disbelief at the apparent lack of announcements or future planning specific to acute inpatient mental health care.

Early last month (6 October), the NSW Government unveiled Stage 1 details of a $900 million redevelopment for the Westmead Hospital precinct, yet made no mention of any acute inpatient mental health services for the area.

General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, acknowledged that integrated community care was the preferred model of the NSW Ministry of Health and the Mental Health Commission of NSW but said the model failed to accommodate for acute psychotic illnesses which require inpatient care.

“Patients with an acute psychotic illness deserve a suitable and safe environment to assist their recovery and enable them to reach a point where it is safe to progress to community based care,” Mr Holmes said.

“Our members in Western Sydney have repeatedly raised concerns about their ageing facilities and the implications of this on the provision of high quality acute inpatient services.”

Cumberland Hospital is the largest public mental health inpatient facility in Western Sydney, with three acute mental health units and a psychiatric intensive care unit, however, no major capital works have been carried out on the site for many years.

Mr Holmes said the facilities at Cumberland Hospital were archaic and no planning had been released or funding allocated to redevelop the units to the appropriate standard that should be expected in a 21-century, world-class health system.

“Instead, our members have described repeated instances of overcrowding in the acute mental health units and substandard infrastructure at Cumberland, such as hired air conditioning units housed in metal cages outside the buildings and no back-up generator for power during blackouts,” Mr Holmes said.

“The deteriorating buildings and temporary infrastructure creates a poor environment which impacts on the safe care of both inpatients and nursing staff.

“The reality is, some psychotic patients do require intensive care and treatment. They need a state of the art facility that provides a therapeutic caring environment to enhance their recovery.”

Mr Holmes said the NSWNMA would continue to work alongside its Western Sydney Mental Health Managers Branch and Cumberland Hospital Branch to campaign for urgent improvements in Western Sydney, as well as plans to improve the provision of acute inpatient mental health services into the future.

Mr Holmes said the NSWNMA would also raise the matter of future planning for acute mental health services in Western Sydney directly with the Minister for Mental Health, Pru Goward.

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