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Thursday, 21 May 1970


Mr KENNEDY (Bendigo) - Today is Grievance Day and I have a very serious grievance that I want to raise in the House on behalf of my electorate. The grievance refers to the fact that it has taken so long for the Bolte Government in Victoria to get down to building, for the people of the Bendigo electorate and outside it, the psychiatric facilities that have been promised for a long time. The need for a psychiatric centre and hospital in Bendigo was recognised as long ago as 1957 by the mental hygiene authority of Victoria, lt is now 1970 - 13 years later - and we still have no guarantee as to when the hospital itself will be opened. Statements are being trotted out by the Government suggesting that the psychiatric centre will be opened, but these statements need to be treated with the gravest suspicion, because it is clear that the hospital itself will not be opened for some time. It will be confronted by serious difficulties. What we will have is a day centre opened. There has been some very serious bungling in the administration of the Mental Health Authority and other departments that have been concerned with it in the development of this psychiatric centre at Bendigo.

Just to show honourable members the dimensions of the costs involved I point out that the estimated cost of the psychiatric centre, the hospital and the works at Bendigo has been put down at $3m, and we still have no guarantee as to when the full facilities, which the people of the Bendigo electorate are entitled to, can be properly used. This can be aptly described as a monument of maladministration by the Bolte Government of Victoria. I stress that 1 am making no reflection whatever on employees in Public Service departments who are involved in the establishment of the day centre. 1 believe that the fault lies directly with the Government. At present the Government is saying that the psychiatric day centre at Bendigo will be opened this year but, as I said earlier, I think that this statement needs to be looked at closely.

For a long time there has been a great need for expanded psychiatric facilities in Bendigo. Other regional centres outside the metropolis have had them for some years. Bendigo has had to wait until it is among the last. Other places like Traralgon, Ararat, Ballarat and Beechworth have had these facilities while my electorate has had to wait. The psychiatric centre that 1 am talking about is very important to my electorate because it will service such places as Bendigo, Heathcote and Castlemaine in my electorate, and other places outside it such as Swan Hill and Euchuca. These people have been denied this service, which is an essential public service, for far too long. While the need for this service has been ignored mentally ill people have been leaving my electorate to go to Ballarat.

The need has been recognised for many years, but it seems that for the time being the only facility we can expect in Bendigo is a day centre. There will be 144 beds whan the hospital section for resident patients comes into operation. I point out that originally in 1957 the Mental Health Authority said that there was an urgent need for a psychiatric hospital in Bendigo. In 1963 the Honourable Clive Stoneham, a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, reported that this had been stated. In January 1964 the Victorian Minister for Health said that a psychiatric hospital would start with a first stage of 400 beds. I have been informed that actually the original proposals were for 600 beds. Anyway, in 1964 the Minister for Health said that he hoped work would begin in June 1964. In 1966 the 'Age' reported that the chairman of the Mental Health Authority had stated that a new psychiatric centre would be built in 2 years, the first stage to include an early treatment unit of 48 beds and 2 rehabilitation wards to accommodate 98 patients and ancillary services. The second stage would add 132 beds and the third stage 144 beds. What is the situation today? It looks as though it will be limited to 144 beds - 48 for early treatment and 96 for rehabilitation patients, lt appears to me that the Government has scrapped entirely the project for 6 geriatric wards of 268 beds. I am particularly concerned with this because there are many aged people in Bendigo who should have these facilities available to them. In other words, what 1 am saying is that the development of the psychiatric hospital at Bendigo has been very severely restricted.

I should like now to make some reference to the stages of building. In 1957 it was said that there was an urgent need. In 1964 the Victorian Minister for Health said that he hoped that building would commence in June 1964. In 1966 the chairman of the Mental Health Authority said that the facility would be built in 2 years. 1 should like to quote from a report entitled Menial Health Services in the State of Victoria Controlled or Supported by Mental Health Authority', written in January 1967. lt states:

New Psychiatric Services In Progress. Bendigo Psychiatric Hospital construction scheduled to commence in 1%6 with an estimated 2 year time of building operation.

In other words, it should have been completed in 1968. I refer now to the actual stages of the buildings, and I stress the extraordinary time it has taken for the work to begin and to be completed. In approximately 1965 the ground was cleared, in approximately 1966 water was put on, and in approximately 1968 the buildings were commenced. At the present stage the main buildings for accommodation of patients have been completed, but the problem is that there has been a gross blunder somewhere along the line because accommodation for staff was not built simultaneously with the main buildings. Therefore patients from Echuca, Swan Hill, Bendigo, Castlemaine and Heathcote have had to be sent to Ballarat or other places while facilities at Bendigo have been lying unused because staff accommodation was not ready at the same time as the main buildings were completed. Patients could have been occupying beds in Bendigo 6 months ago, but this cannot be done because of blunders in administration. I stress the desperate need for accommodation, especially as patients from my electorate are being sent to Ballarat.

The question is whether the psychiatric hospital will be opened this year. The

Victorian Government is now trying to head off criticisms to which it is very vulnerable. The Government is promising to open the day centre this year, but while an official opening may take place - and I think it will - I point out that because of bungling administration and red tape rarely has a psychiatric hospital been opened on time in Victoria. I believe that the full extent of existing facilities will not be available this year. It is incredible that a project costing S3m, when there is an urgent need for beds, should be so delayed. The Government cannot promise that these beds will be available this year.

The day hospital will be available. 1 am confident that this will be successful. I believe that the staff is already doing a first class job. However, their functions will be strictly limited. They will cater for day patients only. Those patients will attend for treatment, entertainment, therapy and so forth during the day and then go home. The day centre will certainly be an asset. I am concerned about the hospital because I think that it will be faced with serious problems in getting staff. There has definitely been no move so far lo get staff for this year. Vacancies have not yet been gazetted. The stuffing situation generally in Victoria for nurses and psychiatric staff is not good. Within the Mental Health Authority there is a 28.5% undercutting of trained psychiatrists. There is a 20% understaffing of such professional staff as speech therapists, social workers and psychologist. There is a 25% understaffing of all psychiatric nursing staff, trained and untrained. The figures have been deteriorating progressively since 1965. The situation in Bendigo is that there is a shortage of nursing staff. I instance the position at the Bendigo Base Hospital at which extra accommodation costin" S3 14.000 has been provided. Il will be difficult for the Bendigo Base Hospital to get staff for the extra wing and this may mean that the hospital will not be able fully to use those wards.

I believe that the psychiatric centre will have to bring in from outside trained and experienced nursing staff as a nucleus for teaching young nursing recruits. This will probably have to be done at the expense of other areas. I here is a problem in getting training recognised by the Nursing Council of Victoria which recognises only postgraduate trainees - those who have done general nursing training. Traralgon has had some trouble in this respect. It may be necessary for the Bendigo psychiatric hospital to send trainees, who are starting their nursing course, to Melbourne for training. I stress that I am keen to see this hospital go ahead. It is very important for the people of my electorate to have the general range of health facilities provided. What angers me is that it has taken so long for this work to be commenced and completed. I repeat, it involves the expenditure of $3m, but because of blundering and bungling by the Bolte Government the people still cannot be guaranteed when they will gain the full benefit of facilities for which they have paid in taxes. This is a disgraceful situation.







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