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Correspondence: Fears for Australian weight disorder unit
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Correspondence: Fears for Australian weight disorder unit

Locals in the southern Australian city of Adelaide are concerned by health department plans to close a specialist unit for the treatment of eating disorders, reports 29-year-old Aaron Fornarino.

A hospital ward that treats patients with eating disorders in Adelaide, South Australia, has been identified by local state government officials for possible closure, provoking protests by local campaigners and health professionals.

In operation since the 1970s, the Ward 4GP weight disorder unit at Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park, offers two- and six-week bed programs for those suffering from eating disorders aged 15 or over.

In the last financial year, 114 patients were admitted to Ward 4GP, 20 of which were adolescents.

However, according to Health Minister John Hill, the ward  is “not an ideal location for [inpatient treatment] to be delivered from”.

Under the plans announced in November last year, patients currently on Ward 4GP would be re-located to the Margaret Tobin Centre, a general psychiatric facility at Flinders Medical Centre.

Critics of the plan to close the ward say that the alternative facility, the Margaret Tobin Centre will be inadequate for treating eating disorder sufferers, with no guarantee that patients would not cross-mix with others suffering severe psychotic and behavioural disorders.

Furthermore, teenagers would not be admitted to the ward, leaving the local Women’s and Children’s Hospital to manage the influx of adolescents.  Due to the small size of the Margaret Tobin Centre, any plans to erect a wall or segregate eating disorder patients would be structurally impossible.

Ward founder Professor Ross Kalucy is among those, including among hospital psychiatrists, condemning the move. On 9 February 2011, protestors submitted a petition to SA parliament containing 2,397 signatures. Protestors also organised a demonstration on the steps of Parliament House against the proposed move.

Following the protests, on 1 February 2011, Hill announced that the plans to move Ward 4GP would be placed “on hold” until a statewide review has been conducted of eating disorder services across South Australia.

Opponents have questioned why this review was not considered before the announcement of the closure of Ward 4GP and many concerned citizens are skeptical about the intent of the review.

Despite the review, SA Health, the regional public health service provider for South Australia, is adamant that the move should go ahead.

The review is to be released in March, 2011.

Links and resources

Please look at “Eating Disorder Unit” and “Eating Disorders” Hansard (SA Parliament):

http://hansard.parliament.sa.gov.au/pages/daily/dailyresult.aspx?d=9/02/2011&t=HALC

My Youtube channel for media reports:

http://www.youtube.com/aaronjfornarino

State newspaper articles (the Advertiser);

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/eating-disorder-unit-closure-puts-lives-in-danger/story-e6frea83-1225956786282

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/eating-disorder-unit-shame/story-e6freall-1225964955945

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/top-student-beat-eating-disorder/story-e6frea6u-1226002506057

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/anger-at-closure-of-specialist-ward/story-e6frea6u-1226003242196

Health Minister, John Hill (Media Release):

http://www.premier.sa.gov.au/images/stories/mediareleasesFEB11/eating%20disorders.pdf


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