Alfred Psychiatry's new women's only ward was officially opened by Minister for Mental Health, Mary Wooldridge recently.
The Alfred is the first public hospital to have an established psychiatry ward refurbished as a women's only area. The ground floor ward is made up of five dedicated beds, a living area and courtyard. Women admitted to the ward are those with the highest needs/risk assessment. All female psychiatry patients can use the lounge area.
A committee, which included consumers, carers and staff, helped inform the building design and model of care, to ensure the ward was developed with best practice in mind.
Associate Professor Simon Stafrace, director Alfred psychiatry said the opening of the women's only area is "welcome progress".
"The initiative came about because consumers, carers, clinicians and researchers considered the feedback of women who spoke about feeling unsafe in psychiatric hospitals. This voice was echoed by the Victorian Women's Mental Health Network, a valued partner in this project. It led to the belief that something better could be provided in the acute inpatient setting," Simon said.
"At The Alfred, this initiative was implemented by a group led by Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre. She was joined by consumer advocate Sue Armstrong, service director Sandra Keppich-Arnold, nurse managers Lisa Scarff and Ryan Dube, clinical nurse educator Amy Seeary and countless others who engaged in the task with passion and commitment.
"The result is another step forward; one that we believe will motivate gender-sensitive practice improvement more broadly and that we hope will contribute to the wellbeing of consumers at a time of great vulnerability and distress."
Jayashri added that she was delighted to see this refurbishment completed.
"Women in acute mental distress have been poorly served by previous mental health facilities where a lack of privacy in mixed gender wards, with a highly charged atmosphere, led to assaults," she said.
"We still have a lot to do to improve the care for women who have mental illnesses and will continue to inform clinical practice with our research."
All new psychiatry units will have women's-only wards built into their design. The Minister believes established units will follow The Alfred's lead and refurbish current areas with gender sensitivity in mind.