Goulburn Mental Health Services - Private Members Statement

Ms PRU GOWARD (Goulburn—Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women) [12.50 p.m.]: I have noted on a previous occasion in this House that Chisholm Ross mental health facility in Goulburn has been allocated funding for an extra 12 beds. Last month I was pleased to welcome my colleague Kevin Humphries, the Minister for Mental Health, to Goulburn and I joined him on a tour of the work in progress. We were also joined by members of the Southern NSW Local Health District, Dr Pavan Bhandari, who is the Clinical Director, Mental Health Drug and Alcohol, the Chief Executive Officer, Max Alexander, and the Acting Chair, Jenny Simons, and others including the Mayor, Geoff Kettle. Wearing high visibility vests and hard hats we were shown around the new buildings. The mental health unit is undergoing considerable construction without any loss of service or bed closures, a credit to the design team, the site workers and the medical and nursing staff.

The new staff offices and a temporary high dependency unit have already been completed and we also had access to the new nine-bed high dependency unit, which is near completion. The units are divided into wings so there is a small intimate feel to the centre which belies its importance as the main acute admission facility in the Southern NSW Local Health District. In its current form the Chisholm Ross Centre is a 20-bed acute adult inpatient unit located on the grounds of Goulburn Base Hospital. The unit is supported by six interim acute psychiatric inpatient beds at Bega Hospital. The 12-bed extension includes six additional open ward beds, taking the total to 23. The six additional high dependency unit beds will take the total to nine. This increases overall bed numbers from 20 to 32.

Patients in need of high dependency accommodation require a higher level of care and observation than in the general acute inpatient unit and the 12-bed extension will provide a state-of-the-art facility which, as I have already mentioned, will be supplemented by a 20-bed inpatient psychiatric unit in Bega. The extra patients the additional beds will attract will of course require more staff to support them and I am pleased to say that when this facility is complete it will provide 15 extra positions. That is welcome news indeed for our great regional city.

Chisholm Ross Centre is part of a larger mental health inpatient service in Goulburn. The new Kenmore Hospital, on the site of the historic former Kenmore Psychiatric Hospital, holds 32 beds as specialist mental health services for older people and a 22-bed rehabilitation unit. Chisholm Ross also has close links with the 16-bed transitional behavioural intervention and assessment services, or T-base units, located on the grounds of the Bourke Street Health Service. Bourke Street is a 54-bed hospital which provides rehabilitation, aged care, palliative care, and dementia services. All these units work together providing timely access to the acute inpatient care best suited to each individual's needs. Goulburn has truly become the district hub for mental health services and I thank my colleague Kevin Humphries and the O'Farrell Government for their commitment to creating this coordinated approach to mental health care across this very spread out local health district.

I also pay tribute to the staff I met on my visits. Many of the nurses are young women and men who are dealing with patients much larger and stronger than they are. It is testament to their patience and care and their great skills that the patients I saw were cheerful and relaxed whilst chatting with the staff. I am sure the role of the medical and ancillary staff comes with many challenges that many of us never face in the workplace. I am sure all members will join me in thanking them for taking on such a compassionate role in caring for patients when they are at their most vulnerable.

On a lighter note, I would also like to mention my visit to the Bourke Street Health Service last month. In true Goulburn style, long tables were laid out with cakes, scones, sandwiches, biscuits and other delicious treats, all in honour of Sister Eileen Regan, who was moving back to Western Australia the next day. It was a momentous occasion marking the end of the Sisters of St John of God in our city. The Bourke Street facility had been run by the sisters since they arrived in the city in 1916 and Sister Eileen was the last one still in residence. The sisters had been an integral part of the city since being invited by the bishop to establish a 13-bed hospital. This small facility grew, like Topsy, and by the 1950s comprised 70 beds with 17 sisters in attendance. It became a private provider of publicly funded health care in the 1970s. With a diminishing numbers of sisters the hospital was transferred to what was then the Greater Southern Area Health Service in 2004.

Sister Eileen's skills, experience and the warmth of her humanity made her a lynchpin in the hospital community as numerous accounts of her care testified. She would come into the hospital at any time. Many tears were shed last week and there were many gifts on that day, but the large turnout of people was the greatest gift of all to Sister Eileen. We all wish Sister Eileen a happy retirement back in Western Australia and thank her for her devotion to the citizens of Goulburn.


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Authorised by Pru Goward, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000