Psychiatrist sought

NEW ERA: Mount Gambier Hospital director of nursing Paul Bullen stands in the newly finished six-bed purpose-built mental health ward. Picture: SANDRA MORELLOCOUNTRY Health SA will launch a fresh bid to attract a resident psychiatrist to the Mount Gambier Hospital as a new purpose-built mental health unit is just months away from operation.

While the 16-bed acute medical ward was handed over by builders to staff at Mount Gambier Hospital Tuesday, September 23the six-bed mental health unit will remain idle until an array of specialist staff can be appointed.

If the recruitment campaign is successful, it will secure the first resident psychiatrist in the history of the hospital.

While additional staff will be recruited for the mental health unit, health officials will juggle current employees to staff the sprawling new medical ward.

No additional staff have been employed at this stage, despite the additional beds.

The cutting edge new ward – which mirrors state-of-the art technology and aesthetics of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital under construction – is the biggest section of the hospital’s $26.7m redevelopment.

Staff were busy making beds Tuesday, September 23at the new ward, which is expected to see the first patients later this week.

Country Health SA South East regional director Jayne Downs said the new mental health unit – one of just three in country South Australia – was expected to be busy when it became operational.

“The new units at Whyalla and Riverland have been pretty much full from day one,” Ms Downs said.

“It will provide a whole new level of care and a fantastic option for people to stay locally rather than seeking services in Adelaide.”

She said it would take some time before a mental health team could be assembled for the new ward.

“Early next year it should be up and running,” the health chief said.

Asked if the recruitment of a psychiatrist was likely, she said that was “certainly the plan”.

“There has always been a position here and I think it is quite a tough ask to come out to the country on their own,” Ms Downs said.

She said the city had never had a resident psychiatrist attached to the hospital.

“I think there has been one or two who have been out in the community, but we have certainly never had anyone appointed to the hospital,” Ms Downs said.

Asked about the flow of mental health patients to the emergency ward, she said there were steady numbers.

“The staff have always worked really hard not to admit people unless they really need to – they can be cared for and gain extra support in the community,” Ms Downs said.

She said the new ward complemented existing mental health services.

“There is the community team, the intermediate care team, the community rehab team that is out in the houses and there are the acute mental health nurses,” Ms Downs said.

“If we go back a decade, we really just had the community team I think now we have got such a fantastic resource – it is an exceptional array of services for a country location and for our population.”

The new mental health ward will have an electronic wandering alert system to ensure security and safety.