The Guardian May 17, 2000


Hospital overcrowding of patients

Staff have imposed industrial bans in two South Australian psychiatric 
clinics in response to overcrowding of patients and lack of nursing 
staff.

"There has been a massive increase in the number of reported assaults and 
other potentially dangerous incidents that involve increased patient 
aggression towards nurses and other staff", said Gail Gago, SA Secretary of 
the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF).

The 38-bed Cramond Clinic at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has experienced a 
massive demand for admissions and was forced to cram in additional patients 
due to a statewide shortage of mental health services.

Nurses have had to put patients in a room designed for seclusion or time 
out for patients whose behaviour gets out of control.

Other patients requiring secure care (in the five-bed lock-up unit) were 
forced to be cared for in the open ward which creates an unsafe environment 
for themselves, other patients and nurses.

The overcrowding and the inadequate staff numbers has also resulted in 
detained patients absconding from the unit.

"Attempts by nurses to resolve this situation through discussion have 
failed", said Ms Gago. "As a result they have been forced to take action to 
ensure their own safety and that of their patients. The action takes the 
form of bans on patient admission to Cramond Clinic to ensure that bed 
limits are not exceeded", said Ms Gago.

Later in the week industrial bans were implemented in another major 
workplace for the same reason  overcrowding.

Members working at Glenside's Brentwood Ward which provide services for the 
seriously mentally ill refused to admit more patients than are beds 
available.

Once again, serious safety concerns affecting both nurses and patients are 
the reason for the action.

The ANF calls on the Minister Dean Brown to take urgent action to address 
the problem.

As Ms Gago pointed out, "The mental health system has been reviewed to 
death and it's time that the Minister acted to provide new services to the 
community and not just give lip service to the needs of the mentally ill." 

Bans in both hospitals remain in place indefinitely.

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