Dozens of patients absconded from the Banksia Mental Health Unit in a three-year period, with the institution failing to meet national guidelines for safety and quality of care within acute mental health facilities.
The damming assessment is contained within documents NSW Parliament forced to be made public last week - including the New England Clinical Services Plan (CSP), the primary planning document for the new unit.
Overall, the Tamworth mental health unit is 71 per cent non-compliant with the Australasian Health Facility Guidelines for Acute Mental Health Inpatient Units.
In one sub-category, Unit Maintains Meaningful Engagement with Family and Friends, the unit was ruled to be 100 per cent non-compliant with national guidelines.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MLC Mark Banasiak, whose parliamentary motion forced the release of the documents, described the assessment of the unit's condition as "outrageous".
"The question is how long has it been at that level of non-compliance? How long has this been dragging on?" he said. "And how long is it going to continue to drag on before we get something that is compliant."
It's not the only problem identified with the mental health unit by the parliamentary trove of documents.
In a section titled "sexual safety incidents", the documents show there were 13 notifications of sexual safety issues between 2016 and 2019 relating to "consumers" admitted to Banksia. The documents do not identify the nature of these incidents.
"Since the beginning of 2016", there were 66 "absconding incidents" from the unit, the CSP, which typically covers to 2019, reads.
Almost all of them - 89 per cent - were patients classed as an "involuntary consumer" of healthcare, according to the CSP. Forty one per cent of escapes were of patients absconding from within the locked unit - the remaining 59 per cent being patients not returning from leave.
The CSP blames the design of the building, which has a low roof, "making access onto the roof relatively easy."
Banksia was ruled to be 83 per cent non-compliant with the standard Welcoming and Supportive Mental Health Inpatient Unit, 80 per cent with Ensures Holistic Management of Health Achieved for Consumers and 60 per cent non-compliant with Provides a Safe Environment.
The only category which showed compliance was Unit Artwork; the unit was 100 per cent compliant. It was ruled 50 per cent non-compliant with Unit Design Facilitates Therapeutic Relationships.
Patient Safety Officers (PSOs) also raised concerns about "consumers" who presented with both mental health and physical health problems and drug and alcohol problems, including delays in treatment and withdrawal from substances, "unclear role delineation" with regard to workforce and "problems with awareness of policies and procedures".
"In managing these consumers are often due to communication problems between medical teams at the general hospitals and the interface with MHS (Mental Health Service) and also due to communication issues with the MHS because of the physical separation of the Banksia unit from the general hospital," the CSP reads.
The officers also raised concerns about a mental health gap in specialist pharmacy services.
"The PSOs reported that there is a need for oversight of clinical pharmacy for medication systems to ensure safety in dispensing and prescribing practices."
A spokesperson for NSW Health did not answer specific questions put by the Leader, about how long Banksia had been noncompliant with health facility guidelines.
In a statement issued on Friday with regard to the broader Banksia rebuild a spokesperson for NSW Health said: "The Hunter New England Local Health District is confident the new Banksia Unit as part of a district wide network of mental health services will address likely future demand for mental health services, including acute beds, in the region to 2030-31. Planning projections are based on ABS population data."
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