Valkenberg Hospital: The New Admission Unit | Western Cape Government


Valkenberg Hospital: The New Admission Unit

10 May 2006
Valkenberg Hospital was founded in 1891. The name derives from the farmer Cornelius Valk who purchased the land in 1720. In 1881 the Colonial Government bought the land to build a reformatory. This never took place but a lunatic asylum, as it was then called, was established to accommodate patients transferred from Robben Island. Robben Island had initially accepted patients to relieve pressure on Somerset and other hospitals, but reports of unhealthy conditions, overcrowding, and high suicide rates resulted in the decision to transfer care of patients to the Valkenberg site.

On the 20th February 1891 the first 36 patients were transferred from Robben Island to the Valkenberg Asylum. This originally consisted of two racially segregated hospitals straddling the Liesbeeck and Black rivers.

Most patients at Valkenberg are there on a voluntary or patient by consent basis. The majority of the wards at Valkenberg are open and patients have the freedom to move around the grounds, while others may come and go at their will. A few are isolated and these contain patients who are acutely disturbed and those who have been admitted for observation by the magistrate courts e.g Forensic patients.

Valkenberg is also a teaching hospital with long - standing hours with the University of Cape Town, Grootte Schuur Hospital, Stellenbosch and Western Cape Nursing College. Students obtain practical training in the various specialized units at Valkenberg. Modern research includes studies of the latest medications and treatment programmes.

Today Valkenberg Hospital has a variety of Specialised units such as Forensic Units, Crisis Intervention and Assessment Units and Out Patient Department. Forensic Unit 1st in South Africa was opened at Valkenberg Hospital in 1986; had a capacity of 120 observation cases - ward was named by male and female staff. Treatment is focused to ensure the optimal functioning of patients within the community they live. The image of Valkenberg Hospital as a Asylum has changed to that of a community hospital with an open down system.

Valkenberg Hospital being the oldest hospital and in a poor state of repair was identified as the hospital to close. After in-depth deliberation the decision was made that all the hospitals needed to remain open to deliver a quality of service within specialist psychiatric hospitals, which respects patients human rights and dignity.

However services had to be consolidated into manageable sites and the patients numbers had to be reduced remarkably. This resulted in the Pinelands side of Valkenberg Hospital to be vacated permanently.

Valkenberg Hospital is now fully integrated as a single unit in the Observatory side of the hospital. In 1998 the hospital was threatened with closure with the intention of rationalizing services. However, this was met with vigorous opposition and after a lengthy discussion and consultation process; the decision was made to keep the hospital open but to consolidate the site and to drastically reduce the number of beds.

The hospital currently comprises 370 beds of which about 165 are dedicated to the acute psychiatric service and 145 to the forensic psychiatric services and the remainder still houses a small component of long term patients. With the exception of the maximum care unit, Ward 20, all wards are located on the Observatory site of the Estate. It is envisaged that with the Hospital Revitalisation process about to start all wards will in future be placed on the Observatory site.

A business case was completed in September 2005 to motivate for Valkenberg Hospital to become a National Revitalisation Project. The New Admission Unit will replace the current Wards 14 and 16 and will comprise the central admission unit as well as two separate wards for the male and female services respectively. Patients will follow the rehabilitation route and treatment protocol from the new admission unit to the River Site Wards.

In terms of services provided these units provide the specialist psychiatric hospital care for the south metropole and southern Cape and Karoo regions. All patients who are admitted to the service suffer from severe psychiatric disorders, and those who are admitted to the high care unit are likely to have a history of the more severe forms of psychotic illnesses associated with behavioural disturbances.

The need to develop a new high care unit derives from the entirely unsuitable design of the previous wards, which had been in use from the early part of the 20th century. These wards represent an outmoded, essentially custodial psychiatric practice that has no place in a modern, more humane service, adhering to the most recent developments in effective psychiatric care. The layout of the old wards were such that patients were far removed from the nurses station, they slept in large dormitories without privacy, and these dormitories were on the first floor, which could only be reached by a dark and narrow staircase.

The physical infrastructure of psychiatric hospitals is one of the key elements to providing a safe and therapeutic service. The challenge in the design of this new unit was to meet the balance of the therapeutic environment and the security requirements, thus creating a dignified, calming environment in a secure, therapeutic setting. The principles to be adopted in achieving this balance were the maximal use of natural light, large, airy volumes, a free flow of spaces within the complex, and centrally situated nurses' stations.

As this new building is transforming infrastructure from the 19th century of custodial care to the 21st modern era it is hoped that this new high care unit will allow for staff morale to be lifted and will represent a new beginning for the hospital. It is intended to achieve the goal of at last providing a model for a respectful, sophisticated and effective psychiatric specialised care and service.

Quotes by Ebrahim Rasool, Premier of the Western Cape; Pierre Uys, Minister of Health for the Western Cape and Marius Fransman, Minister of Transport and Public Works, on the opening of Valkenberg Hospital's new admission wards.

"As we enter the Age of Hope, we are mindful of the resilience of our people and all they have sacrifised in the past. It is with this in mind that we are proud today, as Provincial Government to reach yet another milestone in our commitment for the health and welfare of the people of the Western Cape."
Ebrahim Rasool, Premier of the Western Cape

"The new environment will ensure that patients are treated with dignity and respect and families can feel confident about leaving their loved ones in our care to receive the healing that they require " min Uys said. "The new building will provide a secure and therapeutic environment with freedom of movement and will benefit not only our patients, but also our staff who deserve to work in such a beautiful facility."
Pierre Uys, Minister of Health for the Western Cape

"It is with great pleasure to handover such a state of the art facility that will ensure a successful treatment of patients. Historically these facilities have tended to be more like a prison in terms of detailing. In this building there is not a single burglar bar or piece of razor wire in the design. Sophisticated access control systems, utilising swipe cards and CCTV, not only restrict access to unauthorised purposes but also creates a digital record for security and administrative purposes. We have invested R12, 9m in this project, which led to job creation and the empowerment of emerging black companies."
"Architecture and the built environment can have a significant role in the successful treatment of patients and the continued uplifting of staff - it is anticipated that time will prove this project an even greater success in this realm."
Marius Fransman, Minister of Transport and Public Works for the Western Cape

Shado Twala
Spokesperson: Office of the Premier of the Western Cape
Cell: 083 640 6771

Herman v/d Westhuizen
Media Liaison Officer for Pierre Uys, Minister of Health for the Western Cape
Cell: 0827729161

Eric Ntabazalila
Media Liaison Officer for Marius Fransman, Minister of Transport and Public Works for the Western Cape
Cell: 083 647 6311

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