FOUR beds in a new emergency mental health ward will help ease pressure on Midland hospital’s emergency department by providing specialised care for patients with drug, alcohol and acute mental health issues.
Premier Mark McGowan and Mental Health Minister Roger Cook visited St John of God Midland Public Hospital on Monday to announce $1 million for the planning of the Mental Health Emergency Centre.
“Here in Midland we have one of the busiest emergency departments with more than 70,000 patients each year and of those patients we know about a dozen a day require mental health or alcohol and other drug services,” Mr Cook said.
Specially trained staff will provide care in a space initially with four beds and two chairs.
The exact number of beds needed and the total project cost will be determined in six to eight months.
“Today is an announcement for initial planning and the actual funding will come forward in future budgets,” Mr Cook said.
“Construction is estimated at about 12 months from when we push the button, with construction costs about $4 million and running costs about $1 million a year provided by the Mental Health Commission.”
Swan Hills MLA Jessica Shaw said the crisis-care service was long overdue.
“This is the only part of the metropolitan area where, if you were experiencing a mental health crisis, there wasn’t a facility available for you to present to,” she said.
“It’s a significant step forward for an area of Perth that’s been neglected long enough.”
The announcement comes four months after the triple murder of Ellenbrook mother Michelle Petersen, her eight-year-old son Rua and 15-year-old daughter Bella.
Michelle Petersen’s 19-year-old son Teancum Vernon Petersen-Crofts, who had a history of mental health problems, has been charged with three counts of murder.
“The tragedies that we experienced in Ellenbrook underlined the fact that the north-east metro corridor is the only part of the metro area where you can’t access mental health crisis facilities,” Ms Shaw said.
“I think that’s disgraceful and unfortunately our community found out in the worst way possible what happens if you don’t have access to the right sort of facilities.”
Rise Network service delivery general manager Shaun Mays supported the announcement.
“This is going to be hugely helpful, we have a number of people with mental health challenges in and around the Midland area,” he said.
“The average wait time at the emergency department is very long and beds currently available are quite limited.
“Usually if someone presents with a mental health issue, unless presenting as an extreme case, then they’re down the list to be seen, sometimes people get up and leave.
“It will be interesting to see, if they are diverted, what will be the true reflection of those coming in, we may see a need above those four beds and two chairs.”
The community support service provider’s staff see about one client a week presenting with emergency mental health needs.
“I would like to know how long are those beds going to be available, how long can they stay in the bed and where will they transition to after,” Mr Mays said.
By Claire Ottaviano