Our new Royal Adelaide Hospital is the 3rd most expensive building in the world…that’s right…IN THE WORLD! Who would have thought little old Adelaide could produce something so big and bold? It has cost us taxpayers 2.1 billion dollars to construct and will include world class facilities and cutting edge technology. Everyone gets their own ‘hotel-style’ room complete with robots zipping about, and we will never be more comfortable when sick. However when the new RAH opens and the ‘razzle dazzle’ of our shiny brand new hospital subsides, the underlying problems of our healthcare system in South Australia will emerge, and it is bad news for our senior citizens. The impact of the new hospital has a dark crisis looming for our ageing population and needs to be talked about.
There will only be 120 extra hospital beds more than we currently already have but here is the real problem. The geriatric wards of the RAH will be reduced and the overflow of people will most likely be sent to The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH). This is the engine room of our health services for our aged community, and has purpose built world class facilities (GEM unit) for our dementia patients including research departments trying to find cures. But here is the ‘game changer’. The Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre facilities at Northfield will soon be moved into the TQEH. In theory it is a good move to place all these services in the one location, but the cost is that to make room for this, the existing geriatric areas will be further reduced including their beds, gardens and facilities for dementia patients.
With our ageing population being one of our most significant issues looming in the next 10 years, where are our elderly going to be treated? The Repat hospital will be closed and their geriatric services moved to Flinders Medical Centre. Once again less beds for the elderly as the facilities are located in the one place.The only way the overflow of elderly and dementia patients can be treated is to place them back in the general acute beds within our remaining hospitals. This means that our hospitals (including the new RAH) will now have dementia patients mixed in with general patients having surgery or who may have diseases.
What’s the problem with this? DEMENTIA IS DIFFERENT….The patients wander and roam, they may have mental health issues and require an extraordinary amount of resources to look after them to ensure their safety. After spending 12 weeks in the RAH and 4 weeks in the Repat hospital I know exactly what kind of mayhem one single dementia patient can cause. My Dad required a ‘nurse special’ 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and had over 20 ‘code blacks’ which involved up to 6 security people each time. This is a lot of resources in anyone’s language. If someone is diagnosed with dementia every 6 minutes then we have a crisis on our hands. Our bursting hospitals will now resemble an aged care home and our wards will no longer be safe or effective.
But what if it is your loved one that has dementia and is sent to hospital? They will be placed in an environment that will scare them, it will be noisy, and may increase their behaviours. This means that security teams will need to be boosted and more nurses required to keep the dementia patients in their beds. The patients will naturally want to wander and may disturb other patients who are critically ill. Dementia patients often manically pace the hallways, they are no longer in touch with the real world so often resemble an overgrown toddler. They get lost, they touch things they shouldn’t, they cry & scream, they hit and throw things, they run around naked and sometimes they are just plain frightened.
What about their dignity? How do they feel?…I would suggest probably ‘forgotten’ (which is ironic when you have dementia) .
Our aged community need to be considered and looked after properly, they have surely earnt that right.