Staff at Glenside mental health service work in ‘survival mode’, new report finds

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Staff at a South Australian mental health service work in “survival mode” and incidents of physical harm, verbal abuse and belittling are common, according to a new SA Health review. 

Key points:

  • Serious concerns over staff and patient welfare triggered a review by SA Health
  • The report stated there were 40 episodes of inappropriate behaviour per 1,000 bed days
  • SA’s chief psychiatrist will supervise the facility until it satisfies 30 recommendations

The evaluation — which was released today — was triggered by concerns about nursing care and practices.

South Australia’s chief psychiatrist Dr John Brayley said it was a substandard environment for both patients and clinicians at the Glenside Inpatient Rehabilitation Services (IRS).

“The sorts of matters that have been described in the report would hinder a person’s recovery,” he said.

“It can be psychologically traumatic to be exposed to the types of experience that have been uncovered.”

The report stated there were “attitudes and practices that are not in line with contemporary thinking” as well as patient seclusion and staff bullying.

It found there had been “40 episodes of inappropriate behaviour per 1,000 bed days” over a 12-month period.

It also stated that the constant presence of security guards, to prevent patients assaulting staff or each other, was deterring patients from leaving their rooms.

Dr Brayley said the review would give thedepartment the “best opportunity for turning the corner” to ensure patients and staff were safe and getting high-quality care.

Two men in suits talking to a woman

The unit will come under special supervision while 30 recommendations, including better training for workers, are carried out.

“This is not Oakden but some of the post-Oakden improvements in our system mean this has been responded to in the way that it has,” Dr Brayley said.

The Oakden nursing home was shut down in 2017 in the wake of a damning report by then-chief psychiatrist Aaron Groves, which prompted a Senate inquiry and probe by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC) Bruce Lander QC.

Staff at the Glenside service had lack of training

Central Adelaide Local Health Network clinical director of mental health Dr Leslie Stephan said it was clear something had to be done.

“The reviewers found attitudes and practices amongst some staff which were not in line with contemporary thinking, including, in some cases, the use of coercive behaviours,” he said.

“It cited some underlying reasons for their findings included a lack of training and mentoring for staff, a building design that doesn’t reflect the type of conditions being treated and staff feeling a sense of isolation.”

Nursing director Lesley Legg said staff had already been taught de-escalation strategies.

“We are accepting consumers as business as usual … the unit is completely functional,” she said.

“We do have intensive monitoring and that will continue until Dr Brayley … is satisfied that we’ve met those recommendations.”

IRS has 40 beds and a range of staff including psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists and social workers.

Several matters relating to individual staff have been referred to human resources or WorkCover SA.

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