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
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
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.