The Human Rights Commission has expressed concern that mental health patients in Canberra are being discharged before they are well, leading to unplanned re-admissions, with evidence suggesting bed pressure as the major influencing decision on whether or not a patient is discharged.
The case of Milly Baker, 28, saw her being admitted to Canberra’s crisis unit on more than 20 occasions in the past seven years. Nearly every time, she waited for days in the general ward for a bed and two or three days to just see a psychiatrist. Miily claims that if she had received proper care during her admissions, she would not have needed to be readmitted on so many occasions.
‘I’ve had plenty of experiences where it didn’t work, I just went home, I discharged myself,’ Milly said.
The Human Rights Commission fears a ‘revolving door’ on Canberra’s mental health wards is endangering patient health.They also believe Milly is not alone in her experience.
According to a recent Productivity Commission report on government services, 1 in 10 mental health patients discharged from hospital in Canberra leave significantly worse than they were admitted and fewer than half report an improvement in their health. Furthermore, hospital data has shown that the number of patients moving in and out of the ward each month has risen dramatically from 40 a month to more than 100 in the 12 months to February last year.
According to Baker, some frightening experiences have also hindered her ability to recover.
‘I was young and really shy. They decided to admit me, and I had no idea what to expect, and all I could hear was this guy screaming at the top of his lungs,’ she said.
ACT Mental Health Minister, Shane Rattenbury, acknowledged that the patient mix at the Adult Mental Health Unit was a particular difficulty Canberra faced.
‘The nature of Canberra is that we have a limited number of facilities, we have a small population, and those who are at the very acute end of the system do get concentrated into one place.’
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