Some long-term Wakari Hospital mental health inpatients
face an uncertain future in the community, which does not
appear equipped to care for them if they are discharged in the
coming months, Dunedin North MP David Clark says.
Dr Clark, who is the Labour Party's mental health spokesman,
said a Southern District Health Board proposal to halve beds
in a sub-acute ward was indicative of the reduced priority of
mental health nationally.
''Lots of [the patients] have been there an incredibly long
time, and they're expected to basically empty out in the next
Care in the community was provided by a less skilled
workforce in which turnover was high because of stress and
low pay, he said.
It was simply cost-cutting, he said; he would not object to
patients being discharged if there were well-resourced
services in the community, but this was not the case.
However, Kerry Hand, manager of Dunedin mental health needs
assessment service Miramare and an advocate for
community-based mental health, contacted the Otago Daily
Times to support the move.
''I was surprised to see there are 35 staff involved at ward
11. ''That is more staff than the DHB funds into Central
Otago-Queenstown Lakes, which has a population of 50,000
Mental health funding was too tied up in DHB-run services,
and too centred on Dunedin.
There were hundreds of mental health workers in the South, he
said, and the service received a decent amount of funding.
It would be more efficient if community-based organisations
received a bigger chunk of funding to run more services, he
''Mental health is changing. The future is one where services
are used easily, and are an ordinary part of a community's
However, it is unclear whether the money saved by cutting bed
numbers will be transferred to the community, given a
$250,000 saving from reconfiguring the ward is listed on a
cost-saving document released in November.
A spreadsheet released under the Official Information Act
showed the ward 11 saving as part of a project to trim $15.6
million this financial year.
When it released details of the proposed cuts last week, the
DHB said it would make a decision about funding additional
resources in the community after listening to feedback from
the formal consultation period, which closes on February 12.
The board wants to reduce ward bed numbers from 24 to 12 by
the end of March.
Nearly 13 fulltime equivalent jobs would go, but the board
has said all staff would be offered redeployment.