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Govt pledges to replace shuttered Adelaide mental health unit

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The State Government has pledged $5 million to replace a key mental health unit in Adelaide’s north after it closed the original facility over concerns it wasn’t suitable for suicidal patients, InDaily can reveal.

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However, patients will be without the replacement facility for at least until late 2019.

Last year, SA Health shut down the Lyell McEwin Hospital mental health short stay unit after medical staff told a union safety inspector that it was only a matter of time before an unnecessary patient death at the “appalling and unsafe” facility.

The short stay unit was among several the Government had set up in hospitals across Adelaide in recent years.

SA Health has credited the units with reducing dangerously long waiting times for mental health patients – sometimes stretching into several days, including at the LMH – in the state’s emergency departments.

The Government had been refusing to say whether it would fund a replacement for the unit since it was closed to mental health patients in December.

But InDaily can now reveal that the Government has pledged $5.5 million to fund a purpose-built replacement for the short stay unit.

Mental health patients will continue to be treated in the main hospital until the new unit is built, with construction expected to be complete in late 2019.

The eight-bed facility will allow the assessment and intensive treatment of patients presenting with mental health conditions.

It will feature eight patient bedrooms, bathrooms, dining, lounge and activity spaces, an enclosed internal courtyard, staff workstations and consulting offices.

Health Minister Peter Malinauskas said in a statement that: “This brand new, purpose-built mental health unit in northern Adelaide will provide modern care for mental health patients and ensure they are treated in the best environment for their conditions.”

The unit, he said, would “also continue to build on our commitment to reduce the time mental health patients spend in our emergency departments”.

South Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Association senior industrial officer Bernadette Mulholland, whose scathing report prompted the closure of the facility, told InDaily the new facility would improve patient care in Adelaide’s north.

“This funding initiative ensures an appropriate therapeutic setting for people in times of distress and provides doctors the necessary environment and tools to allow patients, to receive the best care to meet their mental health needs,” she said.

“The closure has meant less beds and specialist inpatient care available to very vulnerable and unwell people living in the northern community.

“This new Government funding will not only address the safety concerns but provide a purpose-built, mental health facility to ensure timely medical attention from doctors for their patients in the north.”

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