Concerns around appropriate facilities for patients in the ACT with serious mental health issues was making headlines on this day in 1989. Two patients in particular had required round the clock care in a segregated ward in Woden hospital at a cost of $1000 per day.
The fact that these patients required guards on watch at all times due to the fact that they were a potential danger to themselves and others, was due largely to the fact that there was no suitable and secure place for them to be cared for. They were each in what was known as ward 12B in Woden hospital for several months.
One patient, an 18 year old man, had already been in this form of closely supervised care for close to one month and was expected to require treatment for several more weeks. This round the clock care was expected cost over $30,000.
The other patient, a female, had received round the clock supervision at a cost of $53,000. These two patients required two officers on duty supervising them and guarding the ward at all times, meaning officers were paid penalty and overtime rates. In addition to the high cost and demand on these officers, it had put a strain on resourcing at the remand centre where they would usually be working.
Experts were looking at potential solutions to the issue of providing a secure facility for those requiring a high level of supervision. Possibilities included building a permanent psychiatric facility in Canberra, although many argued that the costs of staffing and maintaining this for what is generally a small number of patients, would be too high. Demand for such a facility would be too irregular.
The most viable option would appear to be giving the administration the power to declare ward 12B at the hospital, an annex of the remand centre. This would ensure a faster and easier way to transfer patients.