Bethesda’s mental health unit shuts

Bethesda Clinic, Perth’s only private mental health service south of the river, is suspending services later this month for the foreseeable future and has already stopped accepting referrals. 

The shock decision this week has been blamed on a shortage of psychiatrists and poor reimbursement from private health funds. 

The 75-bed mental health clinic, located in Cockburn, was only opened by the Health Minister in March last year after seven years of intense planning, building, and commissioning – and a price tag of more than $60 million. 

More than 100 staff will be affected by the closure.  

In a statement, Bethesda said that despite best efforts, the service is not financially viable. 

The level of reimbursement and payment from private health insurance funds and the lack of psychiatrists willing to look after inpatients are two factors that has led to this tragic decision,” it said. 

“Bethesda would like to sincerely thank its consumers, doctors, staff and community for their support and faith in the clinic and its contemporary model of care, offering private mental health care for the first time in the south metropolitan area, closer to patients’ homes and focusing on keeping consumers out of hospital.” 

The facility provided adult inpatient services and outpatient day programs through the Wellness and Recovery Centre, as well as a dedicated military, veteran and first responder trauma ward, and in a State-first – a women’s-only ward offering patients treatment in a gender-safe environment. 

“The suspension of services at Bethesda Clinic will have no impact on operations at Bethesda Health Care’s specialist surgical and palliative care hospital in Claremont – these services are operating as usual and are not affected,” a spokesperson said. 

“Discharge summaries for all current consumers are being developed by Bethesda’s psychiatrists and clinical teams, in collaboration with the consumers and their families, where appropriate.” 

The sudden closure comes hot on the heels of the Cook Government announcement that construction has started on 40 additional mental health beds at Fremantle Hospital – another investment set to cost over $60 million. 

The work will increase the number of inpatient mental health beds at Fremantle Hospital by more than 60% – from 64 to 104 – for what is now a total loss of 35 beds for patients in the southern corridor. 

The works will include a 24-hour mental health urgent care service, an expansion on the existing triage service which is open from 8am to 10pm, which the Government says will help to relieve pressure on FSH’s ED while ensuring acute mental health patients receive dedicated crisis care.