Graylands mental hospital site to be sold off?

JANN McPHERSON (letters, 12/6) came up with an innovative, practical suggestion to improve the appalling conditions at Graylands Hospital.  Unfortunately, the reverse is on the State Government's agenda.

  As a long-term home-carer for a mentally ill person I have over the past year been repeatedly informed that Graylands is earmarked to be closed and sold because of its real estate value.  Health Miniser John Day has denied that there are plans to close it, but that is about as reliable as other coalition statements and assurances.

THE WEST AUSTRALIAN WEDNESDAY JUNE 14 2000      19
"Graylands is top real estate"
Letter to editor, from Geoff Smith, York

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  A clear pattern is emerging, as has happened to Heathcote and Whitby Falls. Under-fund and under-resource the facilities and when they are sufficiently run down, generate publicity about their parlous state and announce that they are not up to standard and sell them.  The other part of the plan is to build small facilities -- such as at Joondalup and Bunbury -- to assuage public concern, without revealing they are little more than clinics.

  The State Government's intentions became abundantly clear when John Day, in announcing the future sale of Whitby Falls to a mining venture, made the ludicrous statement that residents "would be better off in community-based care".  This means transferring mental health matters to the profit-driven private sector, with the Government ignoring the human rights of some of our most unfortunate, defenceless and vulnerable citizens.

  Quite simply, the Court Government can no longer be trusted with the people's assets and facilities.  Its members do not see these for their social worth, intrinsic value or even necessity, but only in monetary terms.  Anything located in a prime real estate site, such as Graylands Hospital, is especially at risk.

GEOFF SMITH, York.

-- The West Australian, Wednesday, June 14, 2000, p 19


  In April 2000 Mark Bateman of Thornlie had a letter published expressing a similar fear about the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women (midwifery); Jennifer Lynn of Duncraig had a similar fear about another two university training hospitals, the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, and Royal Perth Hospital.  All three hospitals are on now-prime real estate.  Read these and other letters in Hospitals privatising ...

This Graylands Hospital correspondence is now published below, going back to 2 June.


THE LETTER MENTIONED BY THE ABOVE CORRESPONDENT
Lighten up and brighten up

I SUPPORT the views of Edward Cade (These wards are a disgrace, Letters, 7/6).  I am concerned about the appalling conditions at Graylands Hospital.  Could this be one of the reasons why so many people die there?

  To survive emotionally in cold, undignified suroundings takes much mental strength and that is the one thing these people at Graylands don't have.

  Something needs to be done now.  Like most things in life, we do nothing until it touches our sould and that is often when a human we dearly love is severely harmed or lost to us.

  Graylands' solution is simple -- let's not make it complicated.  Let's start with painting the bedroom (ward) walls in soothing colours, which has been proved to be of benefit, and supplying bright bed covers.

  Start with one room.  Use those on community service, those who have to work for the dole.  Graffiti artists could do happy murals on walls.  There are myriad ideas that require little money, some thought, pragmatism and compassion.

  Good on you, Edward Cade.  I congratulate you for speaking out on an issue that few people will put their name to.

JANN McPHERSON, Cottesloe.

-- The West Australian, Monday, June 12, 2000, p 14


POLITICIANS AND VOTERS TO BLAME FOR CONDITIONS, ‘CAGE’
These wards are a disgrace

I SYMPATHISE with the parent who wrote about a visit to his or her child at a secure ward at Graylands Hospital (Punishing the mentally ill? 2/6).

  The description of a "small and gloomy recreation centre, whih was divided from a larger area by brown metal bars" with a concrete floor "interrupted by spaces of black sand and a few spindly and trampled plants" could be nowhere but Montgomery Ward, Graylands Hospital.

  The walls are of cheap brick, scarred by burn marks.  The floor floods in winter, the furniture is of cheap plastic, mosquitoes plague the area and visiting families are forced to share a visiting "cage" that is the same size as a small suburban lounge room where they discuss, within hearing of others, their most private and emotional events.

  As a lawyer who works exclusively in mental health law I have visited almost all of the secure psychiatric wards in WA.  I have also visited a number of elderly persons' wards, maternity wards and children's wards.  When I worked as a criminal lawyer I visited a number of police holding cells and prisons.  With the exception of the lockup at Central Law Courts, none of these places is as barren and depressing as Montgomery Ward and its sister ward, Smith Ward.  Most are considerably better.

  That those wards, which care for often very disturbed and at times very suicidal adult patients, should exist in Australia is a disgrace.  That we believe that people who are just ill and who, as a result of this, have to be given sometimes very frightening treatments that they may not want, who are often confused and often lonely, should be held in an environment that is no better than a police holding cell is a disgrace.

  That no pretence to create a dignified environment is made (such as PMH and some psycho-geriatric units obviously try to do) is a disgrace.  That, because of a lack of proper funding, patients' belongings are publicly moved from ward to ward in plastic garbage bags is a disgrace.

  That such places exist is deplored by everyone I have spoken to at Graylands Hospital.

  At least one patient that I know of has spent more than 12 months there.  The fact that patients often consider their time in those wards a punishment for misbehaviour rather than a place of safety and treatment is only natural.  It is not the fault of the staff at Graylands Hospital but of the politiciands who control the funding and the rest of us who do not seem to care.

EDWARD CADE, Inglewood.

-- The West Australian, Wednesday June 7, 2000, p 14


GRUBBY, DEPRESSING CONDITIONS IN SECURE WARD
Punishing the mentally ill?

I PRESSED the button on the grubby metal plate and spoke into the microphone, giving my name and the name of my son.  Minutes later, a man appeared on the other side of the glass door with some keys, unlocked the door and led me through a drab corridor, covered with brown hairy carpet squares, to another locked door.

  Unlocking it, he led me into a depressing small room almost filled with four huge and ugly-looking padded chairs with metal legs and a small table.

  He left me there while he unlocked and locked a door at the other side of the room, crossed the next small room only to unlock and then lock yet a third door into yet another room.

  I watched through the windows of the two doors and waited until he reappeared with my son.  He had to unlock and lock the doors to bring my sone to me in the first small room.

  I had been alone with my son for only a short time when a second man with keys appeared at the window of the first door, peered in at us, seemed surprised to see us there and proceeded to unlock the door and enter, without knocking.

  He passed through the room to the door on the other side with another young man in tow, unlocked and locked the door into the second room.  I could hear the conversation on the other side of the door.

  On another visit I was led into a small and gloomy recreation centre, which was divided from a larger area by brown metal bars about two metres tall.  Both areas seemed to be covered with black concrete and grey slabs and appeared to be hosed down.  The concrete was interrupted by spaces of black sand and a few spindly and trampled plants.

  The other yard was totally enclosed.  At one end, cyclone fencing wire reached up to more than two metres and then turned in until it reached a roof-like structure.  A dirty old jam tin in place of an ashtray sat on one of the plastic tables.  Two big coke machines stood against one wall.

  You might think from this description that this was meant to be a place for punishment.  You might think that it is not in Perth but in some poor nation with a depressed economy.  You would be wrong.  This is a place to treat a group of people unable, because of their illness, to defend themselves or ask for anything better.

  This is the secure ward at Graylands Hospital for mentally ill patients.

NAME and ADDRESS SUPPLIED.

-- The West Australian, Friday June 2, 2000, p 17

THE  END

  © The West Australian and the authors.

  The West Australian internet contact addresses are:  http://www.thewest.com.au  letters@wanews.com.au

Tagged with Notepad on 05 July 2000, enlarged to 2 2/3 pp 05 July 00, last modified 29 July 00, and 07, 08 Apr 2001
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