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South Australia needs new model of care for vulnerable older people

05 May 2017

Following on from the South Australian Chief Psychiatrist’s report on the Oakden Older Person Mental Health facility, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) is calling for a new model of care and purpose built facilities for vulnerable older people with dementia and mental illness.

 ‘The RANZCP has long held concerns over the care patients had been receiving at the Oakden Older Person Mental Health facility and we brought this to the attention of the South Australian Government as early as 2013,’ RANZCP President, Professor Malcom Hopwood said.

‘The residents at the Oakden facility represent an extremely vulnerable population and the failings at Oakden are much more significant than problems with individual practice - it reflects a whole service that has had deficits in governance over a long period of time, resulting in neglect of resourcing and an absence of a workable model of care,’ Professor Hopwood said.

 ‘There is a clear need for the South Australian government to invest in new purpose-built infrastructure and the development of a new model of care for these vulnerable patients. Internationally, and in other parts of Australasia, successful models of care exist that we could adopt in South Australia,” the RANZCP Chair of the Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age, Dr Jane Casey said.

“The new service will require collaboration between the range of healthcare disciplines who have specialist expertise in the area. It is vital that patients, families and carers, and other community stakeholders from the aged care sector, are consulted.

“Old age psychiatrists have an important role to play in leading the development of a new model of care,” she said.

Dr Duncan McKellar, South Australian based Old Age psychiatrist, psychogeriatrician and RANZCP Fellow added, ‘Older people with severe mental illness, behavioural problems and the symptoms of dementia require well-resourced specialist care in purpose built environments.”

 “While a model of care is developed and new infrastructure built, there are immediate needs for transitional care arrangements for existing residents of Oakden, but caution should be taken around providing rapid responses without adequately thinking through decisions that are made along the way,” he said.

“For instance, there are currently patients admitted to acute inpatient units who require an extended care service, but because of the current situation, there is no plan for how this will be managed, apart from these consumers remaining in the acute bedded services.

“This will have implications for Emergency Departments and acute medical services over the coming months, heading into peak service demand times over winter.”

The RANZCP looks forward to assisting the South Australian government in the development of appropriate services for these vulnerable older people.

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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit