Mental health patients occupy one in 10 hospital beds across the region according to new figures.
The latest Hospital Quarterly report reveals that from April to June, mental health patients stayed for 9645 of the 94,376 hospital bed days recorded throughout the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District.
The average length of stay for mental health conditions was 17 days.
The figures, compiled by the Bureau of Health Information, differed widely across the region’s hospitals.
At Shellharbour Hospital – which has four mental health units – mental health patients accounted for over a third of hospital bed days during the quarter.
At both Wollongong and Shoalhaven Hospitals, around seven per cent of hospital bed days were occupied by mental health patients in the three months.
BHI acting chief executive Hilary Rowell said the overall Illawarra statistics were in line with the state average.
“Across the state, 10.7 per cent of bed days were represented by mental health,” Ms Rowell said.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District acting director mental health Erin Hiesley said the mental health inpatient bed capacity across the district remained stable at 110 acute inpatient beds.
These included 72 beds across four units at Shellharbour Hospital and a further 38 beds across three units at Wollongong Hospital.
“Mental health consumers are accommodated within the mental health units. The mental health service does not have or utilise surge capacity with general inpatient beds in other areas of the hospitals,” she said.
From April to June, the district’s mental health inpatient unit’s occupancy was 85.2 per cent. For the same period in 2017, the service bed occupancy rate was 81.7 per cent.
“In addition to inpatient care, mental health services deliver a number of community-based treatments that are in place to support people with a mental illness in our community,” Ms Hiesley said.
“The community mental health services focus on supporting a person’s mental health needs in collaboration with other health services and community-managed organisations to try and prevent an admission to hospital.
“Where a person does require an inpatient admission, the community mental health teams work to engage with the person soon after leaving hospital to ensure that sufficient support is in place to prevent readmission.”