Helen O?Donnell
Helen O?Donnell

base hospital to admit mental health patients

By ZOE SATHERLEY

LISMORE Base Hospital's emergency department will be forced to admit mental health care patients who cannot get into Richmond Clinic.

Mental health care nurses at Richmond Clinic have imposed a ban on admissions between 4.30pm and 8.30am to ensure the safety of staff, patients and visitors.

They say that Richmond Clinic has been operating beyond capacity with too many inexperienced staff, leading to a series of critical incidents.

Some staff have been subjected to violence by patients, causing injuries requiring medical treatment, Nurses' Union secretary Helen O'Donnell said.

"Richmond Clinic is facing a crisis," Ms O'Donnell said.

"Last weekend, to deal with a staff shortage, hospital administration called in a security guard rather than a qualified nurse.

"These patients need medical care, not custodians.

"On one occasion in the last month a patient slept on a mattress on the floor because there were no beds available."

Yesterday, general nurses meeting at Lismore Base Hospital struggled with supporting their mental health colleagues ? not because their grievances weren't justified, but because their actions will put even further strain on over-stretched resources.

What they eventually decided was to accept admissions of mental health patients after hours, only if that patient was admitted under the surgeon or physician on call and the level of supervision required was documented in the patient's notes to ensure the safety of patients and staff.

A spokesman for the North Coast Area Health Service said the nurses' demands had come as a surprise and that a meeting with them was planned for tomorrow.

He said Richmond's Clinic's update to a 40-bed facility was likely to be completed by early 2007, and an emergency department isolation room for behaviourally disturbed patients completed by May.



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