13 June 2020

Plans for 52-bed private mental health clinic unveiled

| Ian Bushnell
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Deakin Clinic

An artist’s impression of the proposed Deakin Clinic on the corner of Denison Street and Strickland Crescent. Images: Purdon Planning.

Plans have been lodged for a 52-bed private mental health facility in Deakin’s medical precinct, to be operated by Healthe Care Australia.

Barwon Investment Partners and Healthe Care Australia announced its intention to establish the facility last September to meet ”pent up demand” for mental health services in the ACT, particularly adolescent care. They said then that construction would begin in the coming months but a development application has only just been submitted to the planning authority.

The state of the ACT’s mental health services has become a hot political issue in the ACT, with the Opposition regularly attacking Mental Health Minister Shane Rattenbury for a lack of services and failings in the existing system.

Mr Rattenbury had welcomed the announcement last September and the parties’ commitment to delivering high-quality mental health care.

”We look forward to working with them as we collectively seek to address the changing nature of mental health service demand in our community,” he said.

The Deakin Health Hub will house Canberra’s only adolescent mental health beds, until a public adolescent mental health ward opens in about 2022 when the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children expansion is due to be completed.

At present, young people are admitted to the pediatric ward at Canberra Hospital, the adult psychiatric ward or sent interstate for treatment.

The $25 million proposal also includes six consulting rooms, three consulting suites, group meeting rooms, dining areas, kitchen, gym and other staff and service areas.

Three-storey consulting wing

The new three-storey consulting wing with undercroft parking.

It will deliver inpatient, day group programs and outpatient adult mental health services for high prevalence mood disorders, trauma recovery services, as well as adolescent and young adult mental health intervention and treatment.

Sited on the corner of Strickland Crescent and Denison Street, the project involves the refurbishment of the existing vacant building, construction of a new extension to the rear and construction of a new three-storey consulting wing to the left of the existing building, with ground-level undercroft parking. A total of 85 parking spaces will be provided on the site.

The proposal requires a change of building class and a lease variation to remove the use of ‘motel’ and add community facilities limited to health facility and hospital.

Two regulated trees, three unregulated trees and four shrubs are proposed to be removed to allow construction of the additional consulting wing, extension and to make way for an ambulance parking bay.

The DA prepared by Purdon Planning says the proposed consulting wing will allow mental health practitioners to operate from a single location.

”At present, there are limited consulting rooms attached to hospitals. This means that many practitioners travel between private suites and hospitals to treat patients, which results in healthcare inefficiencies,” it says.

The proponents say the ACT’s suffers from a critical lack of mental health care facilities and the new facility will provide dedicated beds to adolescents and programs tailored to the ACT population including veterans with PTSD and substance-abuse sufferers.

They say it will reduce pressure on the public system and the need for patients and their families to travel interstate for treatment.

The DA is supported by the ACT’s medical profession.

Site location

The site in Deakin is adjacent to the Calvary John James Hospital.

A Canberra mother, who commented on the DA, said that the facility is desperately needed in Canberra. ”Both my 17-year-old daughter and I suffer from very complex mental illnesses that includes suicidal ideation. We both must travel to Sydney for private hospital care,” she wrote.

Her experience at the Adult Mental Health Unit has been traumatic and she refuses to allow her daughter to be admitted there, as has been her daughter’s interaction with the stretched Canberra Hospital Emergency Department, waiting 24 hours before being admitted to the Short Stay Mental Health Unit (SSMHU).

The mother says the ACT Government’s Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is disjointed and ”very, very difficult” to navigate.

”In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic mental illness within Canberra is at crisis point,” she says.

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