The iconic 300-bed facility, (known locally as the Repat) is due to be sold as part of the South Australian Government’s Transforming Health plan. Its proposal for the site is for an integrated redevelopment providing a range of residential options and private health and community facilities.
Shadow Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade believes the Repat is an ideal base for a State Government service for South Australians with severe dementia and associated challenging behaviours because Ward 18 is a purpose-built older person’s mental health facility.
“It is a valuable asset only 10 years old with a contemporary design so sound that the Weatherill Government is basically replicating it at the Flinders Medical Centre,” he says.
He pointed out the Chief Psychiatrist has recommended that the State establish a purpose-built facility, and he has estimated that, within four years, there will be 29 South Australians needing the high level of care that would be provided by the purpose-built facility.
“Ward 18 has capacity for 30,” says Mr Wade. “The Chief Psychiatrist says that a new facility may take two years to build – Ward 18 is scheduled to be available from September.”
Neil Baron, a retired aged care consultant and key Oakden whistleblower, welcomed the proposal. “Retaining Ward 18 as an older person’s mental health facility is a good use of a valuable public asset. Flogging off Ward 18 would be yet another crime against the residents of Makk & McLeay – delaying the fresh start that they deserve,” he says.
Barb Spriggs, who experienced both Ward 18 and Makk & McLeay, has publically indicated that they were chalk and cheese.
Mr Wade says the Ward 18 staff understood the area and were able to provide a caring professional environment. “Using the current Ward 18 team to seed two teams would be the best solution,” he says.
Aged Rights Advocacy Service (ARAS) Chief Executive Carolanne Barkla and Council of the Ageing (COTA) SA Chief Executive Jane Mussared say the Oakden mental health facility was "unredeemable and uninhabitable" and they fully supported Mental Health and Substance Abuse Minister Leesa Vlahos' decisive action to close the home as soon as possible.
"But people do still live there and we now urge the State Government to be clear about what the process is to ensure the safety of these residents, as well as the process by which each person will be involved in decision-making about the next steps in their lives," they say.
Ms Barkla and Ms Mussared urged members of the public to use the avenues for complaint and advocacy - the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, the Aged Rights Advocacy Service, SA Police and the Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner.
Anyone with concerns about people in care also can contact the South Australian Elder Abuse Prevention Phone Line on 1800 372 310.