A TEENAGE boy threatening suicide was forced to sit in the Albury emergency waiting room for more than three hours only to be told it was too late that night for emergency health workers to admit him.
Murrumbidgee Local Health, which operates the acute psychiatric centre Nolan House at the hospital and which is responsible for the assessment, has apologised.
It said the 8am to 10pm operating hours of its mental health emergency care service were now under review.
An Albury psychologist this week told of the drama in March and his frustration at the system’s failings.
“The adolescent had experienced a traumatic event and was presenting as a high risk of self-harm,” he said.
“As I’m required to do, that was backed up by another person who advised to take him to Albury Base and be assessed by the emergency mental health workers.
“I guess we got to the hospital about 5.45pm, he was my patient, my responsibility so I stayed there.
“He was triaged — seen by a nurse and doctor and then told to wait.
“We spent 3½ hours in a very public waiting room — he was extremely distressed and there was no place to hide.
“I asked what was going on and was told that it was unlikely he would be seen by the assessment team before 10pm and therefore couldn’t be admitted.
“I guess I was shocked and at the same time I was concerned about how we could deal with the issue.”
The teenager was offered a bed in the emergency ward but finally spent the night at a youth crisis centre.
A spokeswoman for Murrumbidgee Local Health District said all mental health patients arriving at Albury Base were triaged in the department and seen by a doctor to initially assess their medical condition.
“The doctor completes a physical examination to ensure there are no physical conditions to attend to first,” she said.
“If the patient needs a mental health assessment, the doctor will contact the Mental Health Emergency Care Service which arranges admission to Nolan House if appropriate.
“The service is currently available between 8am and 10pm and efforts are under way to increase this to 24-hour cover.”
The psychologist, who did not want to be named, says Nolan House needs to come under the cross-border Albury Wodonga Health banner.
“The fact that Nolan House is administered by Murrumbidgee Health is part of the issue,” he said.
“The call for a youth-focused mental health centre, like headspace, in Albury-Wodonga is justified but we also need to make sure that what we have is working well, too.”
In February, member for Albury Greg Aplin highlighted the problems to NSW Parliament.
He told his parliamentary colleagues of a person having to wait hours to be readmitted to Nolan House, largely because hospital and mental health service computer systems were incompatible.