The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (14:57): Members of the council will know of my long support for people living with mental illness, my work as the Premier's Advocate for Suicide Prevention and also my involvement with the Playford and Salisbury suicide prevention networks, among many others. Will the minister update the council on the government's action with regard to mental health services in the northern suburbs?
The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (14:58): I thank the honourable member for his question and acknowledge his long-term work in the area of mental health and suicide prevention. The Marshall Liberal government yesterday opened an interim mental health assessment unit at the Lyell McEwin Hospital to provide specialised care for mental health patients. The five-bed unit will allow patients to receive timely assessment, initial treatment and care in an appropriate environment. These beds deliver on a Marshall Liberal government election commitment to establish an interim unit at the hospital ahead of the construction of a brand-new $5.5 million facility.
The decision of the former Labor government to abruptly close the short-stay unit in December 2017 under previous health ministers Peter Malinauskas and Chris Picton, the honourable members for Croydon and Kaurna, has added pressure to our hospitals this year. While the former Labor government was prepared to leave mental health patients without a dedicated unit for years while a new permanent unit is constructed, the Marshall Liberal government does not want mental health patients to languish.
In opposition, the Marshall Liberal team committed to an interim solution; we have delivered. Emergency department wait times for mental health patients have increased since Labor cut more than 60 mental health beds across the state's hospital system and older people's mental health network. The cuts have contributed to emergency department overcrowding and mean that more mental health patients are staying in acute metropolitan hospital beds for longer periods.
The government has invested $500,000 in the facility to ensure it is fit for purpose for mental health consumers and will be staffed by a dedicated mental health multidisciplinary team. The permanent mental health assessment unit is part of the wider $58 million major redevelopment of the Lyell McEwin Hospital's emergency department. While the major project is due for completion in 2020-21, the development of the permanent mental health assessment unit is a priority. In the meantime, the temporary unit will improve the way consumers receive care and also help to alleviate demand on the emergency department.
There has been an increase in the number of presentations to Lyell McEwin over the past decade, and a significant number have been mental health presentations. Mental health consumers have complex needs and require specialised facilities to ensure they receive the best care. Being able to assess and treat mental health consumers in the interim facility not only benefits the patients but also frees up staff in the emergency department.
The facility includes purpose-designed beds, bathroom facilities, dining and lounge area, private consulting rooms and staff work stations, and will allow our dedicated mental health staff to provide specialised care to consumers in a suitable environment.