Health Minister Andrew Green told the JEP in an exclusive interview that his officers have drawn up plans to build a mental health centre which would treat both in- and outpatients on the site of the Westmount Road facility.
And he also suggested that if the plans – which came about following a £350,000 feasibility study of the Island’s mental health services – were given the go-ahead, a first-time buyers’ village could be built on the St Saviour’s Hospital site as the patients who currently receive care for dementia and acute mental health issues there would be treated in the new facility.
‘The long-term strategy would be for everything mental-health related to go to Overdale,’ Senator Green said. ‘There would be an acute inpatient ward and dementia inpatients. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services would go there. We would likely have the Recovery College there and Talking Therapies.
‘They would not necessarily be in one building but in bespoke buildings on the same site.’
Senator Green said that Samarès Ward, a rehabilitation unit, would remain at Overdale but said there were ‘dilapidated’ prefabricated buildings on the site, including a former TB hospital which could be pulled down to make way for the new centre.
In the 2013-15 Medium Term Financial Plan, £350,000 was allocated by the States to assess whether the Overdale site was suitable to house the Island’s mental health services. However, the study was postponed when Overdale was placed on a list of sites under consideration for the future hospital.
Last year, after it was decided that the new hospital would be built on the existing site, officers were tasked with completing a feasibility study assessing Overdale as well as other States properties for their suitability in delivering mental health services.
Senator Green said the report concluded that Overdale was suitable and that he would share that recommendation with the Council of Ministers imminently. However, he said it was ‘too late in the political cycle’ for a decision to be made on the proposals and so they would be on the agenda for the next Council of Ministers.
The minister said that if approved, and if the States got its ‘skates on’, the centre – which officers say would cost £45 million – could be ready in five years.
‘Mental health has been a Cinderella service,’ Senator Green said. ‘There has been a lack of investment and maintenance in infrastructure over the years.’
Currently, patients with dementia are treated in Clinique Pinel based at St Saviour’s Hospital, while Islanders with acute mental health conditions – such as depression, psychosis and anxiety – which require hospitalisation, are treated at the nearby Orchard House.
Orchard House, which was originally designed for people with learning difficulties, was branded ‘not acceptable’ by Julie Garbutt, chief executive for Health and Services, last March. She told a Scrutiny panel that tiles were falling from the roof and there were potholed roads leading to the facility, adding that Health needed to ‘provide better’ for the people in the unit.
When asked what he thought should happen to the St Saviour’s Hospital site if it was cleared of health services, Senator Green – who stressed he had not received any advice from officers – said: ‘My own personal view is the site in St Saviour is perfect for a village development.
‘I can see first-time buyer homes there and some infrastructure such as a chemist or a doctor’s. It is land that is already built on and is not in the green zone.’
The minister added that although the hospital building was listed, the recent College Gardens development on the former Jersey College for Girls site – parts of which are listed – show that such schemes could be carried out.
Both the Overdale and St Saviour sites have been touted as possible locations for Jersey’s new hospital by critics of the current scheme, which is to build around the existing hospital.