NEWS FROM THE PAST- REBUILDING ONLY REMEDY (GHOST ROOM)
April 12, 2012
Another interesting article from The Mercury 5/9/1944.
One could only imagine what it was like back in those days when many of the older original wards were falling apart. Shame they are now gone but I’m sure the patients were pleased when new buildings were built.
CONDITIONS at Lachlan Park, New Norfolk, as outlined in the report by the Supervisor of Mental Hygiene for Victoria (Dr Catarinich) were moderately set out, a representative of “The Mercury” discovered when he visited the institution yesterday. Everywhere in the old section of the hospital there are signs of decay and congestion, and complete rebuilding seems to provide the only .possible remedy for a depressing state of affairs.
FROM the outside approach to the – institution with its concrete gutterings and paths, well kept lawns and avenues of trees, there is evidence of an atmosphere of happiness for the people there. But the picture changes rapidly inside, and the deeper one probes into the wards and cells of the old building the worse the position becomes.
The original building was erected in 1826-118 years ago-as a place of confinement for invalid prisoners of the Hobart Town barracks. There have been many additions. The new buildings helped to relieve congestion, but the original buildings have been occupied continuously since 1826.
Worst parts of the institution are the women’s refractory ward, and the female main building and the section which includes the central cookhouse, bakehouse, and laundry. In the women’s refractory ward and main building the single wards are dark and drab. In many cells narrow barred windows high above the floor provide only dull lighting and little ventilation. Sunshine never reaches many cells, and although clean the bare floorboards and naked walls are depressing. Many of the walls also are damp, and thick wooden doors with small holes in each are typical of those found only in old convict prisons which remain in parts of the State.
There can be no sound argument for the retention of mentally sick human beings under such conditions. In many places floors, which creak with age, are patched with pieces of tin, and narrow wooden staircases are dangerous because of their construction and condition.
One ward in the main women’s build is known to nurses as the “ghost room.” It is in a central position surrounded by a group of wards which vary in size: Actually the room is little different from the others surrounding it, but because of its uncanny atmosphere, many nurses will not enter it unless it is essential for them to do so.
Bathroom facilities and accommodation in the old portion of the women’s wards are primitive. There is ample hot water, but baths are out of date.
A skylight directly over three baths in one room provides the only light,
and two of the three baths are copper, tubs on wooden frames. They have outlived their usefulness.
Like some other wards at the hospital, the women’s refractory building is not sewered. The fact that lavatory pans have to be taken along a corridor, past single cells, and through a dining-room for assembly outside in a yard provides one of the best arguments for the wiping out of the whole of the buildings.
In the main women’s building some of the upstair wards have been vacated because of the danger to patients in the event of fire.
Many women are sleeping on beds which were transferred to New Nor- ton from Port Arthur probably 80 years ago, when the new beds were bought for the model prison in the penal settlement.
The beds are without springs of any kind. Instead they have three pieces of iron each about 4in. wide to sup- port mattresses. Patients would be as comfortable sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
The laundry is part of a block of buildings which includes a central cookhouse, bakehouse, and store. The general layout is bad, the structural condition of the building deplorable, and the facilities for providing meals for more than 600 people many years behind the times.
The old wards in the men’s divisions are nearly as bad as those on the. women’s side. There i§ little space for exercise in yards which are hemmed in by high walls and buildings which prevent the sun reaching more than a small part of them.
The cleanliness apparent everywhere in the wards and other parts of the institution is a tribute, to the staff, who are playing a big part in keeping up the standard of treatment, but only complete rebuilding can bring about the desired result in essential features of modern mental treatment. .