INSPECTION: Building site manager Ben Dunn (left) with health service managers Jill Wiese and Chris Crawford.
INSPECTION: Building site manager Ben Dunn (left) with health service managers Jill Wiese and Chris Crawford.

Six months away from health envy

By Alex Easton alex.easton@northernstar.com.au AS far as deadly sins go, envy's got to be one of the better ones as long as you're on the receiving end.

Just ask North Coast Area Health Service's Richmond network manager of mental health services, Jill Wiese.

After spending years on the wrong side of the sixth sin, she and her staff are now less than six months away from the opening of the new Richmond Clinic and becoming the envy of the area health service.

Speaking during a tour of the partly-constructed complex, Area Health Service chief executive, Chris Crawford said the new $38.5 million clinic, which will boost the number of mental health beds at Lismore from 25 to 40, would benefit the entire Base Hospital complex right down to the number of car parking spaces.

The parking spaces were a bonus, Mr Crawford said. They were not in the original design but added by the builder, in consultation with the health service.

That 200 car-space bonus put the base hospital in line with Lismore City Council's requirements for parking spaces it was supposed to provide for the first time in years. It should ease the pressure for spaces in Uralba and Hunter streets, Mr Crawford said.

It was hoped the extra beds in the new Richmond Clinic would help ease some of the pressure on the emergency department, while providing a big leap forward in mental health care in the region.

"At the moment we have 25 beds and we're going to 40," Ms Wiese said.

"We hope that is an improvement on the emergency department being able to get people in (to the clinic) more quickly and with not having to discharge people too early because of the pressure for beds."

The new complex is a radical leap forward from the existing facility; which is essentially a hodgepodge of the hospital's aging former dialysis and maternity units bridged with a 'new' section to create the Richmond Clinic. "This is really long overdue for us," Ms Wiese said.

The new clinic is spread over three buildings: A four-bed child and adolescent unit; a 36-bed adult in-patient unit; and an 'ambulatory' or out-patient unit.

However, describing bed numbers fails to do justice to the scope of the project. For example, the child and adolescent unit may have only four beds, but is backed by some serious infrastructure, including a substantial indoor and outdoor communal area, a family therapy and education room that can also be used as a legal court room.

The unit is backed by a series of interview rooms, office space for staff and even has a room for parents to stay while their child is in care. The adult in-patient unit combines three units, including a 16-bed acute unit, a 16 bed sub-acute unit and a four-bed high dependency unit.



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