A new report shows Ballarat Health Services has one of the highest rates of seclusion used for people with mental illness, but hospital management are working hard to bring it down.
Seclusion involved placing a person in a bare room with just a mattress, and in some cases a toilet and may be used when a patient becomes aggressive or dangerous to staff, other patients or themselves.
BHS had a rate of 20.7 seclusion episodes per 1000 bed days in 2019-20, well above the state average of 9.7 and even above the rural average of 10.3.
And the Ballarat figure was up from 15.2 the year before according to figures in the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council report How Safe Is Your Hospital?
BHS operations director of mental health services Mark Thornett admitted the number was higher than they would like.
"Seclusion is one of those things we use as absolutely last resort ... it really is a situation where patient and staff safety is at risk," Mr Thornett said. "I wouldn't put any illusion that it's a therapeutic or clinical intervention, it's a safety intervention to get to a point where someone can be more in control of themselves so not a risk to themselves or other people."
Mr Thornett said BHS was working with the Department of Health and Human Services to improve some of the infrastructure at BHS to allow changes to occur.
"When BHS was built it was state of the art but over the years ... now there are better facilities and the facility we had built many years ago has fallen behind and it's hard to retrofit," he said.
We have released of our #Seclusion Report #2. Vic Government must set a deadline to eliminate all seclusion and restraint in #mentalhealth services, and until they have been eliminated, hold mental health services accountable! Help us #EndSeclusionhttps://t.co/AzxOFjaR7u— The Vmiac (@VMIAC) July 30, 2020
"We are working with the department to get more money to reshape it, to make it a better space for people to be so we have a space to do some de-escalation ... and capacity to engage with people to give them a private space to be able to help them get back in control of themselves so we don't have to use seclusion."
VMIAC chair Dr Chris Maylea said seclusion was unnecessary, harmful and a breach of basic human rights.
"These harmful practices must be replaced with appropriate supports and compassionate care," he said.
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"People who have experienced other trauma, particularly women who have survived sexual assault, are often retraumatised by seclusion and restraint. Our hospitals should be safe places, not places where people are traumatised."
The report stated that the rates of seclusion at Ballarat Health, Barwon Health and Melbourne Health (NorthWestern Mental Health) were concerningly high.
The highest seclusion rate recorded for the report was BHS with 27 per 1000 bed days for the period of January to March 2020, while the lowest was 0.71 for the same period at Frankston Hospital.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14.
Help is also available, but not limited, via the following organisations. The key message is you are not alone.
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