Home | Industry+Policy | Oakden replacement facility a ‘line in the sand’
Dr Duncan McKellar, head of unit with the Older Persons’ Mental Health Service. Photo: News Corp video

Oakden replacement facility a ‘line in the sand’

South Australia’s answer to a replacement for the Oakden mental health facility has received full accreditation.

Health Minister Stephen Wade told press at the site that the Northgate House facility received “very positive feedback” from accreditors.

“This is a real tribute to the leadership and the staff at the Northgate facility, working with families to make sure that we can deliver top quality care to older South Australians,” Wade said.

Dr Duncan McKellar, head of unit with the Older Persons’ Mental Health Service, said the team has worked hard in the past 12 months on a “journey of reform” – one that is ongoing.

“We’re a service that has come a long way but we’re also still a service that is growing and learning and changing,” McKellar said.

He said Northgate House’s achievements mark a line in the sand. “It’s the start of a new way of doing things for us as a state and we look forward to continuing to build into the future the best practice service for this population,” he said.

Currently, 12 people live at Northgate House, all former Oakden residents, and the team is in the process of accepting new admissions for the facility’s four remaining beds.

Speaking at the press event, Michael Coleopy, whose twin sister, Nina, is a resident at Northgate, said he has noticed “incredible” changes in the 12 months she has lived in the facility.

“I’m impressed with the way that [staff] not only show professional care but they also show that loving care that makes such a difference,” Coleopy said. “Because of the environment, because of the care, I think that’s contributed a lot to Nina’s improvements.”

McKellar fielded questions from journalists about the staff who previously worked at Oakden and are now at Northgate, and called on those in attendance to avoid suggesting that staff who transitioned across are all bad nurses.

“We do have staff here who worked at Oakden and we’re very proud of those staff,” he added. “There were some very fine, very caring staff who worked at Oakden … who struggled to provide really good care in a difficult context.”

They were against a number of odds, he explained, not just related to staffing levels but other resources and budget decisions made at executive levels.

Northgate House will take new people into the facility on a case-by-case basis. McKellar said: “Because we’ve only got a limited number of beds, we will be working with our colleagues from across the state to identify who needs that bed the most and who will fit into the services that we provide in the best possible way.”

He also acknowledged the need to expand services in the state. “We’ve a long way to go in South Australia to build capacity services for people with complex needs due to behavioural and psychological signs of dementia and also people living with enduring mental illness.

“There has been a lot of work that’s gone into a model of care planning process that will hopefully be a blueprint for best practice services and increased capacity.”

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