10 Reasons to Save Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital

10 Reasons to Save Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital

1. It beats jailing people with a mental illness.

As psychiatric hospital beds have been closed over the past 20 years, NSW’s jail population has exploded – rising from 3400 to 9000. Jails are the new psychiatric hospitals. Latest figures reveal 50% of prisoners have a depressive illness and 11% have conditions like schizophrenia. De-institutionalisation has led to re-institutionalisation.

2. It will save lives.

In 2004 in NSW alone, 134 people who had been discharged from psychiatric care within the preceding 28 days took their lives. Many of these people had been prematurely discharged because of a shortage of beds. Experts believe at least half these deaths are preventable. This situation is replicated in all the other states – leading to hundreds of preventable deaths every year. And there’s no point hiding from the fact that people suffering from a serious mental illness and refused admission to hospital can, and do, kill innocent people.

3. Extended hospital treatment is needed.

With average hospital stay for psychiatric patients now 10 days, many patients suffering from a serious psychiatric illness are not receiving the extended treatment they need. This would not happen with serious physical illness.

4. There is a grave shortage of beds.

In the past decade there has been a 29% reduction in the number of mental health beds in NSW and a 52% per capita reduction in long-term beds (many of those would have been for psycho-geriatric patients). More beds alone will not solve the mental health crisis, but it is a big part of the solution. And there is no reason why these beds cannot be in a stand-alone, specialist psychiatric hospital; after all, private psychiatric hospitals, where beds are increasing, are stand-alone.

5. It can strengthen community care.

Hospital care/community care is not an either/or choice. We need both – and both have been decimated in the past decade. Rozelle Hospital can provide a whole range of outpatient services for people with mental illness who are living in the community.

6. We must tackle the dual-diagnosis crisis.

Arguably the most alarming problem in psychiatric care at present is the number of young people suffering from both mental illness and a drug abuse problem – yet the NSW public health system still does not have a dedicated program for tackling this virtual epidemic.

7. We owe it to carers.

“Community care” all too frequently means family care – while this persists, we owe it to carers to provide respite care to relieve pressure on them. And people with a mental illness who feel the need for a spell in hospital require a place like Callan Park so that they can voluntarily admit themselves.

8. A teaching hospital is an urgent priority.

NSW has 87 mental health staff per 100,000 people, compared to 100 per 100,000 in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. It’s obvious that we need to be training new staff now. Transforming the present Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital into a world-class psychiatric hospital would fit that bill.

9. The environment at Callan Park is therapeutic.

On our bus trip to Canberra in 2007, a nurse educator pointed out how important exercise was to the health of psychiatric patients. Callan Park has no equal on that score – and proposals for a city farm on the site could help patients too. The very spaciousness of the site also means patients of varying ages and illnesses do not have to be crowded together as in general hospital wards.

10. The local community supports the hospital.

An independent opinion survey in 2002 found that 76% of local residents support the psychiatric hospital in Callan Park. For us it’s an IMBY issue. And we know governments can afford to invest in mental health – the NSW state government, for instance, is promising to spend $130m on a new jail in Kiama. For a fraction of that, Callan Park could be upgraded into a world-class psychiatric hospital. Already the Liberals and the Greens – and surrounding local Councils – are committed to this. It’s time the state Labor government showed some of the same basic, practical humanity.

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