Changes unsettling for families

Heather Casey.
Heather Casey.
Changes in the Otago mental health service are causing apprehension among families of those with mental illness, Supporting Families Otago chairman Richard Linscott says.

However, families were broadly supportive of the Southern District Health Board's proposal to cut 12 inpatient beds at Wakari Hospital, because it was part of a wider strategy that would engender a better service, he said.

Mr Linscott confirmed the organisation held two contracts of its own with the health board, but maintained that did not conflict with its role as families' advocate.

The organisation was being ''a little bit patient'' to give the board the opportunity to implement its plan.

''We need to keep our eyes on the task here, which is realisation of a greater breadth of more integrated services that are also more effective.''

Mr Linscott said he did not see the bed closures as a cost-cutting move. However, family members of a mental health client, Fay and Allan Kennedy, of Alexandra, contacted the Otago Daily Times to express concern the board's mental health strategy was inconsistent with the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights.

The subacute service was a transition point between acute care and discharge to the community.

A shortage of accommodation in the community could mean delays, which were difficult and stressful for clients, who might be settling into a new treatment regime.

When the subacute ward was full, patients had to find accommodation at short notice upon discharge from the acute service.

This problem would be exacerbated when there were 12 subacute beds rather than 24, she indicated.

She believed the mental health strategy, named Raise Hope, breached the patients' code's stipulation of a right to service quality and continuity.

Southern DHB mental health nursing director Heather Casey said the strategy went out for consultation, and received wide support from the community in submissions.

''Raise Hope recognises that inpatient care is not the preferred option for many people receiving treatment and aims to provide more care for people in the least restrictive environment with minimal disruption to people's lives,'' Mrs Casey said.

The board has previously said it will ensure community-based organisations have sufficient resources to cope with increased client numbers, but is yet to provide details.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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