New RAH mental health beds to ease pressure on EDs

A 10-bed Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) will open at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) this week, 16 months after the rest of the hospital, at last easing pressure on the emergency department.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade said the former Labor Government built the $2.4 billion RAH with a faulty duress alarm system which meant that when staff called for assistance, it did not accurately identify their location.

“When the hospital opened in September 2017, the 10 psychiatric intensive care beds could not be used,” Minister Wade said.

“This is just another part of the mess left behind at the RAH by the former Labor Government. Another day, another Labor health mess to clean up.

“It has meant that the new hospital had 10 mental health beds fewer than the old RAH.

“Labor’s failure to install a working duress alarm system and the loss of mental health capacity at the RAH is one of the root causes of a growth trend in emergency department waiting times for mental health patients and overcrowding in the RAH ED.

The Report on Government Services 2019, released today, found that under Labor, South Australia was the worst performing jurisdiction in the country for timely access to mental health care.

Only 56 per cent of mental health patients were seen within clinically recommended waiting times in 2016-17 - 12 per cent lower than the national average of 68 per cent.

The 10-bed PICU is opening this week after a solution to the duress alarm system was found.

It will bring the total number of mental health beds at the RAH to 40.

Minister Wade also announced today that the 10 beds at Glenside - which have remained open as a PICU while a solution was sought at the RAH - will be transitioned to much-needed, new forensic mental health beds.

“The Marshall Liberal Government will open a Forensic Secure Inpatient Unit in the facilities now available at Glenside. Forensic patients are often stuck in our emergency departments or hospitals, taking up mental health beds or general beds,” Minister Wade said.

“Treating forensic mental health patients in our EDs is not good for the patient, for other members of the community in the ED, or for our hardworking clinicians.

“Clinicians have been calling for an increase in forensic mental health beds for decades and today we act in the best interests of all South Australians.

“We are opening beds and improving South Australia’s health services to ease pressure on our emergency departments.

“We are investing in services to better support the health and wellbeing of all South Australians.”

Dr Leslie Stephan, Clinical Director of the Central Adelaide Local Health Network Mental Health Directorate, said the opening of the PICU will provide care for some of the most vulnerable patients who present to the RAH.
“This not only eases pressure on our emergency departments, but will enable us to treat our most acute patients in the most appropriate clinical setting on site,” Dr Stephan said.
“I would also like to express my gratitude for the project team, which has brought the alarms up to standard.
“To say it’s been a long time coming is an understatement. Myself and my staff are looking forward to coming together as a team to provide evidence-based treatment in a world class facility such as the RAH.”
The duress alarm system has been inspected by Chief Psychiatrist John Brayley, who has given his approval for the unit to open, with conditions related to duress alarm testing and monitoring.
The RAH Mental Health Unit now has 24 acute care beds, 10 psychiatric intensive care beds and six short-stay beds, all in single rooms with ensuite bathrooms.

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