A new 307-bed public hospital at Midland, east of Perth, does not provide a designated smoking area for involuntary patients being treated in its mental health unit.
While smoking is banned on hospital grounds across Western Australia, an exemption allows facilities for involuntary patients – those in secure areas who cannot access outdoor areas alone – to include a designated smoking facility.
However Mental Health Minister Helen Morton has confirmed to the ABC that no such area exists at St John of God Midland Public Hospital, which opened on Tuesday.
Ms Morton acknowledged the situation was not ideal.
“The mental health facility is on the fourth floor of that facility and they were not able to designate a smoking area there,” she said.
“It is my preference that, where possible, and where a designated smoking area can be put in place, that involuntary patients have access to a smoking area.”
She said there was also an area within the Frankland Centre at Graylands Hospital for forensic inpatients referred from the courts and prisons, where a designated area was also not able to be provided.
For some of these patients cigarettes are one of the only luxuries they have.Stephen Dawson, WA Opposition
The ABC understands that involuntary patients at most other mental health facilities in WA can smoke as they are given access to a designated area.
The opening of the St John of God Midland Public Hospital coincided with the closure of the run-down Swan District Hospital.
The $360 million hospital allows patients from Midland and surrounding suburbs to access chemotherapy, coronary and neonatal care closer to home, without having to travel to Perth.
The facility was jointly funded by the WA and Federal governments and delivered under a public-private partnership with Catholic provider, St John of God Health Care.
The hospital is operated under contract by St John of God.
Fix the problem: Opposition
Opposition mental health spokesman Stephen Dawson called on Ms Morton to resolve the lack of a designated smoking area, saying it was unfair on involuntary patients being treated at the new hospital.
“It is extraordinary. This is a purpose-built facility in a brand new hospital,” he said.
“This is short-sighted. The Government should have foreseen this from the outset and ensured these patients, who are in stressful and difficult environments because they are ill, have the same rights as patients do in other hospitals.
“I call on the Minister to work with her colleague, the Minister for Health, Kim Hames, to get this problem fixed.
“For some of these patients cigarettes are one of the only luxuries they have, and patients at this new hospital won’t even have access to that.”
The Health Department has been contacted for comment