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SA needs 200+ extra dementia beds: Wade


South Australia needs more than 200 new beds to treat dementia patients in the wake of the Oakden scandal, says Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade.

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Wade released the final report of the Oakden Oversight Committee this morning, which details the views of six expert committees responding to the recommendations of former Chief Psychiatrist Dr Aaron Groves.

Groves’ explosive Oakden review made public systematic flaws that enabled the abuse of dementia patients and forced the Weatherill Government to close the Oakden Older Person’s Mental Health Service last year.

Wade said the committee’s report, released today, more than a year after Groves’ report was published, “identified the burgeoning need in people with dementia, but also in people with enduring mental illness”.

“It suggests that not only is there a need for 24 intensive beds in relation to dementia, but there’s a need for more than 150 beds for people with lower-severity dementia, and another 36 for people with enduring mental illness,” he said.

“Our state has a huge challenge in front of it, to meet that need.”

He said there was a need for “a strong response from the state in relation to the unmet need”.

“When we closed Oakden, we lost more than 60 beds out of the (system).”

He said the Northgate facility, to which many of the most severely ill patients were transferred after the Oakden scandal became public, provided 16 beds – an insufficient number to meet demand.

The report released today projects that by 2037, more than 22,500 South Australians will suffer dementia with behavioural and psychological symptoms, including nearly 200 patients with very extreme or severe symptoms.

According to the report, a 24-bed facility would be needed to treat the most acutely ill patients.

Wade said some patients with the most serious symptoms were currently being treated in facilities that were not “ideal” for their care, and that the State Government – in partnership with the Federal Government – would invest to provide more appropriate services.

“We acknowledge that there are interim arrangements that are not ideal … for example, our older person’s mental health facilities – some of them will be looking at people with tier seven BPSD (behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia) who might otherwise be in a (higher acuity) facility such as (Northgate),” he said.

“There are still residents who are being supported in residential aged care facilities.

He said the former government “hadn’t put enough money into delivering the services” and that it was “very important that we develop a plan that’s … feasible, sustainable and affordable”.

He said older persons’ mental health services would be “part of the (State) Budget on September 4 (2018), but let’s be clear, some of these options that are currently being worked on won’t be able to be resolved by September 4”.

He did not specify, however, how much money the State Government was willing to spend.

Wade added that the Government was looking at options to provide older persons’ mental health care services on the Repatriation General Hospital site.

He said SA Health was “talking to potential partners who are specialists in this area of care” with a view to using the Repat for that purpose.

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