Nearly 13 fulltime jobs in a sub-acute mental health ward in
Dunedin will go in a plan to halve its beds from 24 to 12.
The proposal to slash capacity at Wakari Hospital ward 11 was
released to Southern District Health Board staff yesterday.
The board has told staff they will all be offered
redeployment, but the Public Service Association has raised
concerns about whether the offers will be suitable. The union
is also concerned community care services will not receive
extra resources to cope with the extra demand; however, the
health board said it would listen to feedback, and no
decisions had been made yet.
Public Service Association southern region organiser Julie
Morton said the board claimed the cuts were in line with its
policy of providing community-based care, yet it did not
propose to beef up community services to meet the resulting
Existing services would be forced to absorb extra clients;
claims of an improved service were ''meaningless'', Mrs
In the community, clients were likely to be cared for by
lower-skilled mental health workers, rather than nurses, she
said. The impact of clients receiving less clinical time was
unknown, she said.
Staff had been told they would all receive redeployment
offers, but there were ''fish hooks''. She believed
redeployment would most likely be offered in acute mental
health settings, where the board had been building vacancies.
Many staff, some of whom had decades of experience, were not
willing, or were unable, to work in an acute setting.
Staff were ''cynical'' about claims their patients were
better off in the community. Admission criteria for the ward,
which sometimes admitted patients for more than six months,
would probably tighten, with places kept for the more
severely ill, she said. Bed numbers would reduce from 24 to
12 by the end of March; the proposal document said the board
was funded for 20 beds, and had been ''over-delivering'' for
Average occupancy in the ward over the past two years was
The ward would be reconfigured on a single floor rather than
two floors. Staff would reduce from 35.49 fulltime equivalent
to 22.76, including the loss of seven registered nurses, and
more than four enrolled nurses.
The board will release options later this week to give staff
a choice over which method it uses to determine which staff
will leave the ward. Redundancy payments would not be
The proposed changes helped achieve the objective of putting
the community and the patient at the centre of ''everything
we do'', the board said in the proposal document.
Mental health nurse director Heather Casey, in a statement
emailed by spokesman Steve Addison, said ward occupancy and
length of stay had been steadily decreasing.
''We will continue to work with community providers to ensure
we provide more care in the community.''
Redeployment options would include positions in community
services and inpatient wards, Mrs Casey said.
Staff submissions on the proposal close on February 12.