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Mental health care to be transformed as construction starts on new inpatient unit

THE main stage of construction is set to get under way on a new acute mental health inpatient unit at Hervey Bay Hospital, creating 39 construction-related jobs, and up to 30 additional ongoing health-related roles.

It also marks the first steps in a project that will change the face of mental health care and more than double inpatient bed capacity on the Fraser Coast.

Assistant Minister for Health and Regional Health Infrastructure Julieanne Gilbert and Member for Hervey Bay Adrian Tantari were on hand to celebrate the milestone, joined by Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service staff, consumers and local Butchulla Elder Uncle Glen Miller.

Assistant Minister Gilbert said the new 22-bed unit formed the major stage of the $39.61 million Fraser Coast Mental Health Services Project, which also involved the redevelopment of the existing Maryborough inpatient unit into a 10-bed sub-acute unit focusing on older people’s mental health care.

“This project will be a game-changer for mental health care provision on the Fraser Coast,” she said.

“It will create much-needed mental health inpatient capacity at Hervey Bay, while it will also enable the team in Maryborough to shift its focus and provide a specialised inpatient unit for older people – which reflects the needs of the Fraser Coast’s growing and ageing population.

“Between the two facilities, mental health inpatient beds on the Fraser Coast will increase substantially, from 14 currently at Maryborough to 32 across the region by the end of 2022.”

Following early works that started in late 2020 to create extra car parking on the hospital campus, the main phase of construction on the inpatient unit is now set to get started.

Mr Tantari said the state-of-the-art new facility would enable the Wide Bay Mental Health team to provide more consumers with the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

“There has been a strong need for acute mental health inpatient beds in Hervey Bay for some time, so it’s exciting to see the first steps being taken towards changing the lives of people in our region who need intensive mental health support,” Mr Tantari said.

“This unit will help to divert mental health consumers away from our emergency departments and into the care of a team devoted to meeting their individualised needs.

“In the short term, the inpatient unit will also mean more jobs for the Fraser Coast, with an estimated 39 construction-related jobs created during the build and up to 30 additional ongoing health-related roles once both the Hervey Bay and Maryborough units are up and running.”

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Board Chair Peta Jamieson said developing and expanding inpatient and community mental health services was a key part of WBHHS’s strategic plan, Care Comes First… Through Patients’ Eyes.

"This facility has been one of our major priorities for some time, as we work to build capacity and local access to services. While inpatient admission isn’t the right fit for everyone, there is no doubt the new unit will help our Mental Health team to significantly expand their capacity to support consumers’ recovery and mental wellness,” Ms Jamieson said.

“While our focus is on the construction process right now, I also want to acknowledge the enormous amount of work that’s gone into getting us to this point.

“This includes a great deal of effort not just from our Wide Bay Mental Health and Infrastructure teams, but also from our consumers and other service partners who have generously given their time to provide valued input and ensure this facility is welcoming, safe and recovery focused.

“I also want to emphasise that this service will be about much more than the building.

“Our care will be delivered by highly skilled, multidisciplinary teams, including peer workers whose own lived experience of mental health challenges enables them to support and advocate for our consumers as part of their care journey.”

One of those peer workers is Tony McKillop, who is currently a part of the state-leading Mental Health Hospital in the Home team, and has been a vital part of the consultation process for the new inpatient unit.

“Applying my peer support and lived experience to the mental health inpatient unit project has been an amazing opportunity to collaborate, and has enabled me and my colleagues to contribute our perspectives on risk, safety and – more importantly – dignity for consumers,” Mr McKillop said.

“It’s also about normalising what might otherwise be a very clinical environment.

“If inpatient environments are stark and boring, it can agitate and escalate people. So, we’ve had input to make sure the design will incorporate things such as open spaces, lounge rooms and a gym, as well as music, quiet spaces and nature to aid the healing and recovery process.

“One of the other exciting things we’ll be including – which is a relatively new concept in mental health care – is a café in the foyer that will act as a crisis support space, where consumers can come for a chat if they think they need help but they’re not sure what kind of help, or where they should go.

“This is a safe space where they can have a comfortable chat with one of our team members, who can either help them access immediate support or direct them to what might be the right fit for their needs.

“I’m really proud of the role our peer workforce has played in this project so far, and I know we’ll be proud of the difference the service will make to mental health consumers when it’s up and running.”

Last updated: 3 March 2021