MORE voices have joined the fight to keep the Panorama Clinic open over the 2019-20 Christmas and new year period.
The psychiatric unit at Bathurst Base Hospital closed for two weeks at the end of 2018, seeing those residing there sent packing until it reopened.
Community mental health at the hospital also closed, meaning there were no dedicated mental health services open in Bathurst at a time of year that can be particularly difficult for vulnerable people.
Councillor Alex Christian has been vocal about the closure, saying it was unacceptable that people had nowhere to go in their own city, and his thoughts have been echoed by mental health advocates.
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Kevin O’Meara, a member of a recently formed Bathurst advocacy committee which has yet to be formally named, said the decision by the Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) had to be questioned.
“To have a situation where people are turfed out onto the streets … the job of a hospital is to look after people,” Mr O’Meara said.
He said mental health had become more widely discussed in society, encouraging more people to reach out for help – but it was hard for them to do that when two vital mental health services were unavailable.
“We ought to be better than that,” he said.
Vanessa Comiskey, the founder of the advocacy committee, said the option that people were given was to ring other services for help or go to Bloomfield Hospital in Orange.
“Bloomfield isn’t the best place either, because it can be a very intimidating environment,” she said. “If they don’t have family support to go visit them or bring them supplies, then they are stuck there.”
The other issue is that vulnerable people who decide to seek professional help over Christmas are likely to be discouraged if they arrive at one of the Bathurst services to find that they are closed.
“If they are in that frame of mind, I reckon they wouldn’t be able to ask for help,” Ms Comiskey said.
In a statement to the Western Advocate, WNSWLHD director of Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol Services, Jason Crisp, said Christmas was traditionally a quiet time of year for the Panorama Clinic.
“However, during this time patients presenting who may benefit from sub-acute psychiatric treatment at Panorama can have an elective admission scheduled for when the Clinic reopens, or if they need inpatient care they are referred to Bloomfield Hospital, where they receive treatment until transfer to Panorama Clinic can be considered when the Clinic reopens,” he said.
When asked whether the clinic would close at the end of 2019, Mr Crisp said a decision would not be made for some time.
“The WNSWLHD will make a decision based on the needs of consumers at the time,” he said. “We take the health and welfare of our patients very seriously and work with them to provide safe and person-centred care based on the individual’s needs and goals for recovery.”
Mr Crisp also said that before and during the 2018-19 closure period, patients were given “information, support and appropriate alternate treatment and care if required”.
Cr Christian said he had spoken to Member for Bathurst Paul Toole and hoped that together they could co-ordinate a meeting with the Western NSW LHD.