Mental Health Accommodation

In Parliament, Questions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:44): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing on the topic of dual occupancy rooms in psychiatric wards.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: After one patient killed another while sharing a room at the Noarlunga Hospital in South Australia, the Deputy Coroner, of course, has recommended against dual occupancy rooms in psychiatric wards in our public hospitals, stating when making this recommendation late last year that ‘given the practice of dually accommodating patients’ there was a ‘certain inevitability’ that someone would be killed as a result of this practice.

While it was reported during that inquest into the 2014 death that the Morier Ward at the Noarlunga Hospital was the only psychiatric facility in the public mental health system in which rooms were shared by two people in this state, I note that more contemporary statements from SA Health responding on this matter in recent months indicate that we have in this state, I believe, three mental health units which continue to have these dangerous shared rooms. I note, also, SA Health’s statement that:

There are dual bedrooms currently in use at three mental health units in South Australia across three local health networks, and that all services have in…plans and or requests to move to single occupancy rooms through capital works projects but that these projects will require approval from the Minister for Health and Wellbeing prior to submission to the Department of Treasury and Finance.

My questions are:

1. How many of these rooms currently are not yet single occupancy?

2. Have you made approvals needed for the Treasury to consider the capital works required to move to single occupancy for any or all of these rooms?

3. Was that money made available in yesterday’s budget and, if so, what is the time frame for this?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:46): The honourable member refers to a coronial inquest. My recollection is that I have recently submitted SA Health’s response to the Coroner’s recommendations. Obviously, a change like this takes time. As the honourable member says, there are some facilities that are using single rooms and plan to do so for some time. In relation to those facilities, my understanding is that the Chief Psychiatrist is working with the local health networks to try to minimise the risk to inpatients. For example, I understand that—

The Hon. T.A. Franks interjecting:

The Hon. S.G. WADE: The honourable member indicates that she has read the report.

The Hon. T.A. Franks interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Franks has the opportunity for a supplementary.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: With all due respect, if the honourable member has seen SA Health’s response, I again refer her to it. There are risk mitigation strategies that are in place, but in the longer term, as the response indicates, it is the intention of the department to implement the principle of single room occupancy of mental health rooms.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:48): Supplementary: I didn’t ask about duress alarms and risk mitigation, I asked when these single occupancy rooms will be achieved?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:48): As I said, it will be over time. Significant capital reform like this does take time, and we need to make sure that we balance all of the calls on the mental health capital spend.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:48): Supplementary: was that capital spend made available in yesterday’s budget?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:48): Certainly, the allocations made in yesterday’s budget will not achieve what I have just said would be a long-term investment.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:48): Supplementary: will these changes be made within the next three years?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:49): That’s almost hypothetical. That’s a matter of each of those budget processes and the government working through what the calls are on the capital works budget, particularly in relation to mental health.