Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Red News Readers,

Good on these nurses. Given the frustration that must exist amongst mental health nurses about the lack of acute beds in NSW and repeated promises by politicians that so far have not come to much there would be ample justification for all mental health nurses in NSW supporting this action by imposing the same bans. What is needed now is action by governments, state and federal, not just promises of more money one day soon!

Jenny Haines

Nurses place work ban on mental health patients

Natasha Wallace Health Reporter, smh

May 14, 2008

NURSES at the mental health unit at Prince of Wales Hospital are so fed up with bed shortages they have voted to begin work bans from today.

At a union meeting yesterday they decided that no mental health patients would be admitted to the 50-bed Kiloh unit when beds were not available. Until now nurses have had to put patients on couches and in seclusion rooms.

The Herald has been told the ban would include patients being escorted to the hospital by police.

It is understood there has not been a spare bed for several months and up to five patients a night are sleeping on couches or the floor.

The work ban comes after evidence given at the NSW public hospital inquiry that the emergency unit at Prince of Wales was overloaded with mental health patients because there were not enough ward beds.

Sally McCarthy, head of emergency, told the inquiry on May 1 that on average almost five of the 12 acute beds were taken by mental health patients.

The NSW Nurses Association said recently that some patients had to be restrained and sedated because there was not enough staff to properly care for them. Nurses in emergency were frequently assaulted.

Dr McCarthy told the inquiry there had been an 80 per cent increase in the number of mental health patients presenting to emergency since 2002, and most of this had occurred since 2005.

"Taking six beds out of our capacity just for mentally-ill patients severely limits our ability to assess the vast majority of our patients who suffer from other illnesses," she said.

She said the emergency department did not meet any of the NSW Department of Health criteria for a safe environment for mentally ill patients.

"The prolonged stays these patients have is due predominantly to the lack of capacity of the mental health inpatient service to place them in appropriate beds. Our emergency department is not a suitable environment."