A LAWYER believes public safety is being put at risk through poor management of patients who should be being treated at Albury hospital’s mental health unit Nolan House.
Albury practitioner Susan Robey raised her concerns in reply to a Border Mail article earlier this week flagging expansion plans for the hospital’s emergency department.
“The under resourcing of Nolan House is a disgrace,” Ms Robey posted on Facebook after concerns were raised by Winter Solstice founder Annette Baker about Nolan House neglect.
“I work there in the Mental Health Tribunal and they are routinely releasing people because of lack of beds, transferring (patients from the high dependence unit)...to general ward because of no beds.
“This exposes patients and staff to higher risk of injury from patients unstable due to their conditions and if that’s not bad enough they are declining to admit people referred for assessment by the courts who are then released back into the community and commit further offences endangering the community.”
Asked by The Border Mail to expand on her post, Ms Robey said it was apparent there were unstable people abusing alcohol and drugs and not following their medication who should be receiving treatment.
“They are a time bomb on the street and inevitably will cause some issue – low end or high end,” she said.
Ms Robey said transferring patients from Nolan House was problematic.
“They’re having to move the deckchairs around, sometimes you’re only option is to send them to Wagga, but then you’ve got a transport issue,” she said.
“Some are so volatile it’s dangerous to transfer them.
“They’ve often got very, very compelling cases that require excessive force to control them, that’s not just for their safety but the safety of people supporting them.”
Ms Robey’s comments follow long-running concern over the mental health unit.
No representatives of Albury Wodonga Health, which runs Nolan House, were willing to comment on Ms Robey’s views.
Member for Albury Greg Aplin responded by saying there was a “need to not only upgrade but reconfigure and reimagine Nolan House and that’s exactly what’s being undertaken”.
He said AWH chief executive Leigh McJames told him a consultant was being appointed this month to discuss plans with stakeholders, including the Friends of Nolan House, and produce a plan for an upgraded or new centre.
The timeframe for that process is unclear, but Mr Aplin hopes the plan will be completed to allow funding to be finalised in this year’s state budget.
It is estimated it could cost $20 to $30 million.
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