DOCUMENTS reveal a replacement for Tamworth's 'stark' and 'grim' Hilltop Lodge dementia unit is a priority for Hunter New England Health (HNEH).
Hilltop Lodge cares for people 65 and older who have dementia. It has rooms for 16 beds, but the New England Clinical Services Plan (CSP) reveal two of them are used for storage and the layout "significantly increases the risk of adverse events".
The new T-Basis Unit could be co-located with the Community Mental Health Unit but it's yet to be funded or announced.
Scott Hyams cared for his mum for seven years while she battled dementia until she passed away last year. She spent about 10 days in the T-Basis unit.
Mr Hyams described the unit as "stark", "grim" and even "19th century".
"My experience of going up there was very, very very depressing and run down. And just not a place you'd really want to be," he said.
Mr Hyams, a Dementia Australia advocate and member of the Older Person's Advocacy Network, said a new unit was urgently needed.
"I think that is very badly needed in our area, it really is," he said.
Tamworth dementia advocate Libby Darling said the city needed new dementia support carers, as well as a new building.
She was quick to praise both the care and the facilities at the unit, which cared for her husband before he passed away eight years ago.
"I just feel that to give someone any kind of help, any support, it doesn't matter what sort of building it is. It's that emotional support that they need. It's just the simple things that help people along, like reading, music drawing, sitting with them, that sort of support," she said.
"We don't have a support person anymore. Tamworth's a great place, I love it. But we need that regular support here."
The CSP shows there are a number of issues with the existing building. The dining room is used for case conferences and family meetings due to a lack of other space, and the layout increases risk particularly for staff on night-duty when there is minimal staffing numbers. The unit also has the highest recorded number of aggressive incidents in the system across the health district.
The planning document shows there has been "poor retention of staff" at the unit, and there is a need for more access to other hospital resources like occupational therapists, social workers and physiotherapists, among others.
The third infrastructure priority for HNELHD is an upgrade for Armidale's Clark Centre. The unit currently cares for voluntary mental health patients and has eight beds. The "replacement or major refurbishment" would upgrade its capacity to be able to cover involuntary patients but could also add additional beds to the Armidale unit.
Mental health advocates and Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson have called for the old Banksia unit to be converted into a new drug and alcohol unit, which they say the region needs.
NSW Health did not respond to a series of questions about the documents by the Leader.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
- Bookmark northerndailyleader.com.au
- Make sure you are signed up for our breaking and regular headlines newsletters
- Follow us on Twitter
- Follow us on Instagram
- Follow us on Google News