Thomas Embling Hospital bed shortage leaves Bendigo man in prison system for up to six months

A SHORTAGE of beds at Victoria’s forensic mental health hospital means a Bendigo man who was found not guilty of murder by way of mental impairment could be in the mainstream prison system for at least another six months.

Andrew Blow, 25, stabbed his father to death in Long Gully in 2016, but his acute schizophrenia resulted in a not guilty finding in the Supreme Court.

He will be placed on a custodial supervision order, but a shortage of beds at the high security Thomas Embling Hospital means he must remain in Port Phillip Prison until beds become available.

Blow’s case appeared in the Supreme Court on Friday, during which the court was told there has been no increase in bed numbers at Thomas Embling for 10 years.

There are eight prisoners in the “queue” for the beds, with Blow last in line.

Forensicare executive director clinical services Danny Sullivan said they expected an increase of 18 beds between May and July, but there was still likely to be waiting lists into the future.

“The government has certainly invested some effort in looking at options for the future, but as yet we are unable to say that we have a firm funded future increase in beds beyond those 18,” he said.

In the meantime, Blow will be kept in a specialist unit at Port Phillip Prison with access to a psychiatrist and psychologist. He is expected to be transferred to Thomas Embling when the beds becoming available, which could take six months.

Dr Sullivan said the prison environment was not ideal for psychiatric patients as they are locked in cells for hours at a time, making the administration of the drug Clozapine problematic.

Justice Michael Croucher said it was not a desirable situation.

“Mr Blow shouldn’t be where he is, in a prison, albeit there are facilities in prisons now that are much better than they once were for patients in his situation or persons in his situation,” he said.

Blow was found not guilty by way or mental impairment in December. He stabbed his father to death in his home in Battery Street on November 5, 2016.

The court was told Blow had a “delusional preoccupation” with his father.

The matter will return to court in August.