Tamworth Mental Health Carers’ Support Group joins call for Tamworth Banksia upgrade

UPGRADE NEEDED: Di and Don Wyatt believe a major overhaul of the Tamworth Hospital mental health unit is needed to cater to the growing issues of mental health. Photo: Gareth Gardner
UPGRADE NEEDED: Di and Don Wyatt believe a major overhaul of the Tamworth Hospital mental health unit is needed to cater to the growing issues of mental health. Photo: Gareth Gardner

TAMWORTH mental health advocates have urged the state government to urgently upgrade the Banksia Unit amid concerns over the ability to recruit and retain staff at the facility.

The Tamworth Mental Health Carers’ Support Group is one of the leaders in a push to build a better Banksia unit with members concerned for staff and patients.

Members said the facility is overcrowded at times, with little ventilation and needed an upgrade.

“It really needs a whole new centre,” group chairperson Di Wyatt said.

“There are so many people with mental health issues and there’s just not enough facilities for them. The facility isn’t well equipped and it’s outdated. This is going to get worse.”

Mrs Wyatt said she was also concerned by a lack of clinical health accommodation for young people with mental health issues in the area and also reports of overcrowding in the facility.

Former chairwoman Joan Wakeford said upgrades would attract more mental health professionals to the area.

“It is not sufficient for the staff who work there, they have got very cramped conditions and this contributes to recruiting and maintaining staff,” she said.

“It’s also impractical for people who need to go down to the main hospital and get their physical health attended to.

“The patients tell me its not even well ventilated. The men’s bedrooms are not air conditioned and they can’t open the windows because of the security or lack of security on them. I know that the bathrooms are also wearing out and the tiles are coming off.”

Hunter New England Health mental health services general manager Leanne Johnson said the health body was participating in a planning process for a state-wide infrastructure program for mental health services.

“In the past two years, NSW Health has spent more than $550,000 on upgrading and improving the facilities and resources at the Banksia Unit,” she said.

“The Banksia Unit is a 25-bed facility that provides inpatient mental health support for approximately 900 voluntary and involuntary admissions each year. The length of time a person remains as an inpatient at the Banksia Unit depends on their clinical needs and the supports they have in the community.

“For the past three financial years, the average time a patient has remained in the unit is 8.4 days. As with all of our services, a network of mental health services  across the District supports the Banksia Unit. If there is increased demand for mental health services at a particular time, patients can receive care at our other facilities.”