Tuesday, November 11, 1997.
ARADALE TO CLOSE AS WORK PROCEEDS ON NEW FORENSIC CENTRE - KNOWLES
The Victorian Government will complete the decommissioning of the former Aradale Psychiatric Hospital as a major preliminary step to the opening of the new Victorian Institute of Forensic Psychiatry at Fairfield, the Health & Aged Care Minister, Rob Knowles announced today.
Mr Knowles said the final ward at Aradale - which housed 12 mentally ill criminal offenders at Ararat - would be closed on February 9.
The 45 staff who worked at the ward, known as the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre, would be offered jobs at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Psychiatry or offered redundancy packages, he said.
Mr Knowles said the decommissioning of Aradale would have been completed a year ago had there not been significant planning delays with the Victorian Institute of Forensic Psychiatry. The Government announced in 1995 that the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre would close.
Because of the drawn-out process which resulted, key staff from the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre have taken other employment - with the result that there is a shortage of trained and experienced staff left, he said.
Mr Knowles said the 12 clients would be transferred to a refurbished secure ward adjacent to the existing Rosanna Forensic Complex until Fairfield is opened in early 1999.
“Following the delays at Fairfield, it was originally intended that the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre would remain open until the second half of 1998,” he said.
“However, with the resignations of a number of senior and experienced staff from Ararat, it would be unfair both on the rest of the staff and on the clients to try to continue operating at less than optimum levels.
“Over the past few years it was an ongoing problem trying to recruit skilled and experienced staff to move to Ararat to work with such a challenging group of clients.
“The most appropriate course of action will be to finalise the decommissioning of Aradale and transfer the clients to Melbourne, where there is a pool of experience both in nursing and clinical staff.”
Mr Knowles said he acknowledged the links between Ararat and the Aradale Psychiatric Hospital, which spanned more than a century of care.
“I also commend the dedication of the nurses and other staff from the hospital both now and in the past,” he said.
“However, hospitals such as Aradale were subject to the policies of deinstitutionalisation and reforms to mental health services over the past decade.
“These policies have seen the move away from large stand-alone institutions and the transfer of clients either to community-based living or to small specialist facilities.
“Once the decommissioning of Aradale was decided, a timetable was publicly set for its scaling down and eventual closure.”
The Director of Victoria’s Forensic Mental Health Service, Professor Paul Mullen, said the $25 million Victorian Institute of Forensic Science at Fairfield would be able to provide state-of-the-art treatment for criminal offenders with a mental illness.
“The new institute will provide modern treatment in a secure hospital setting for up to 120 patients,” he said.
“It will also provide a state-of-the-art training and research capacity for specialist forensic health professionals. It will be closely affiliated with the Maudsley Hospital Institute of Forensic Psychiatry in the United Kingdom, and other specialised hospitals and tertiary training institutions both in Australia and overseas.
“For these specialised links with hospitals and tertiary institutions, and for access to the biggest possible pool of specialist staff and researchers, it is in the best interests of the clients to be in a centralised location.”
Professor Mullen said the institute will be a purpose-built hospital which will provide secure, specialist psychiatric treatment to offenders with mental illnesses and other patients who pose a danger to themselves or others. Ongoing treatment and rehabilitation will be provided for patients who require long-term care and eventual preparation for a return to the community.
With the decommissioning of the Aradale Psychiatric Hospital and the transfer of patients to community living and to other facilities, after December 1993 the Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre was the only remaining ward.
Serena Williams, Press Secretary (03) 9651 5799; 0412 683 876.
Graeme Walker, Department of Human Services, Media Unit (03) 9616 7296.