Teen’s experience highlights gaps

A LOCAL mother’s experience trying to get help for her daughter who had overdosed on pills has once again highlighted the urgent need for increased mental health facilities in the Shoalhaven.When Dianne Holmes from Vincentia took her 15-year-old daughter to Shoalhaven Hospital’s emergency department last Monday, the experience left her questioning the “non-existent” facilities for mental health emergencies in the Shoalhaven.Ms Holmes’ daughter’s vitals were checked by a paediatric nurse, but she was not seen by a doctor as she was told her daughter’s problem was mental, not physical.For the same reason, the girl was not permitted an overnight bed in the paediatric ward.Mrs Holmes stayed up all night with her daughter, afraid “she would try to kill herself again”.The incident, while distressing for the family, has emphasised the critical need for the federally promised 20 sub-acute mental health beds at Shoalhaven Hospital.Planning is reportedly under way with the Health Department funding the $10.6 million project currently in schematic design.The construction tender has been set for November 2012, with construction due to begin in December 2012.Project completion is estimated to be 2014.The facility can’t come soon enough according Ms Holmes, local politicians and mental health advocates.“It’s a wonder how many other parents have gone through the same thing. It’s like people don’t want to know about it. My daughter was treated like a leper and I was left to sit and wonder, what the hell do I do?” Ms Holmes said.With the nearest mental health hospital in Shellharbour, Ms Holmes said it was not practicable to send her daughter there.“We need somewhere safe and quiet, a facility that means they [young people with mental health issues] can be treated locally,” she said.Member for Kiama Gareth Ward said with every passing day, the Shoalhaven’s mentally ill were not receiving the support they need.“The reality is these beds were needed yesterday.“It’s not good enough that people get shipped to Shellharbour, we need this in our community.“I will continue to fight to ensure that all who need to be held accountable will be held accountable,” he said.Member for South Coast Shelley Hancock said the facility was “absolutely crucial in the Shoalhaven”.“The state minister for health was down recently to identify what they believe are the gaps. In those discussions it always comes up that we need acute mental health beds.“Staff have no alternative sometimes, if they don’t have the dedicated mental health beds there is very little they can do.”Member for Gilmore Joanna Gash said there was little in the way of after-hours help.“Where is the after-hours service? You need to have somebody on tap.“How many more have to suffer?“This affects our community and we need to work together – maybe we need to be louder and noisier on this issue,” she said.A spokesperson for Shoalhaven Memorial Hospital confirmed it was usual process for patients with mental health issues who present to Shoalhaven Emergency Department to be seen and assessed by appropriate clinicians.“Based on their clinical need, a treatment plan is determined in consultation with family and or carers. This may include referral to a specialist age-appropriate facility across the district,” the spokeperson said.This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.