No vacancy puts patients in limbo

If you have a mental meltdown in the Clarence Valley, try and time it for office hours and pack a bag, as help is limited in Grafton.
If you have a mental meltdown in the Clarence Valley, try and time it for office hours and pack a bag, as help is limited in Grafton. John Gass

FEELING like harming yourself is frightening enough without the humiliation of begging for help.

If you have a mental meltdown in the Clarence Valley, try and time it for office hours and pack a bag, as help is limited in Grafton.

"I was admitted to Grafton Hospital, but I didn't get any treatment," Felicity Watson said.

The psychiatric nurse came to me the morning after my admission and told me there were no vacancies in the nearest mental health unit, so I was escorted off the premises, discharged and left to my own devices," she said.

The 29-year-old Grafton writer, wrote in the Daily Examiner last year about her experiences in the public health system with bipolar disease.

While many would like to see a fulltime Grafton mental health unit with specialist staff, she is calling for more-affordable improvements.

"I feel the first step would be to have locally-based psychiatric nurses available on-call for 24 hours.

"The second step would be to have beds available for mental health patients in Grafton Hospital."

The last review of Clarence Valley mental health services was eight years ago, said area nurse manager Warren Shaw late last year.

"When presented with the relevant data, local mental health stakeholders advised the health service that developing an inpatient unit in Grafton was not the best option," Mr Shaw said.

Instead the health service chose to expand the mental health unit at Lismore from 25 to 40 beds.

Health service planning considered population, existing services, community need, workforce requirement and availability and costs.

"Because there are no overnight facilities in Grafton, patients have to be disconnected from their social support networks and I don't think that's positive," Ms Watson said.

Topics:  clarence valley, crisis, health, mental health, patients

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