The Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, has closed its psychiatric ward as the number of children seeking treatment for serious mental illnesses continues to rise.

The dedicated psychiatric unit stopped admitting children and young adolescents on January 25 after the latest consultant psychiatrist resigned, Fairfax Media has learnt.

So far four children have been affected, but more families are expected to be sent elswhere for inpatient treatment. The earliest the ward is expected to reopen is mid-March.

Child and adolescent psychiatrists are appalled by the closure and warned of the potential harm it could have on acutely unwell children.

“It’s a completely outrageous situation,” said one psychiatrist who spoke to Fairfax Media on condition of anonymity.

The children affected have been directed to the Children’s Hospital Westmead. Others may also be sent to the western Sydney hospital or other child and adolescent psychiatric units in the state.

Most children who were usually admitted to the Randwick hospital psychiatric unit are suicidal or experiencing acute psychosis.

Being moved to other hospitals, potentially further away from their families, could exacerbate their distress, the psychiatrists cautioned.

They warned the temporary closure could see an increase in adolescents being admitted to adult psychiatric units.

One of the main reasons the eight-bed unit was opened in 2013 was to avoid children with severe and complex problems being admitted to adult facilities.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was only made aware of the closure after questions were put to the hospital by Fairfax Media.

“It is fair to say I am dismayed as I hadn’t been made aware that was happening,” Mr Hazzard said.

– Kate Aubusson

Read more: Dismay over Sydney Children’s Hospital psychiatric ward closure

Image by Fernando from Unsplash