Wakari Hospital cuts scaled back

Proposed cuts to Wakari Hospital mental health beds have been scaled back by the Southern District Health Board.

The board wanted to halve capacity in ward 11,Wakari's sub-acute ward, from 24 beds to 12, sparking public and staff concern the move would put pressure on community services.

In a document released yesterday the board said it listened to concerns and would instead reduce beds to 16.

''We agree ... the reduction to 12 beds may increase pressure on other services and inpatient beds. While we believe this issue can be mitigated, we accept the need to allow time for all services to adjust to a decrease in beds across the district.''

Public Service Association southern region organiser Julie Morton was surprised by the change of heart, which she said signalled a more sensible step towards what was likely to be further reductions.

''I assumed that despite consultation this was a fait accompli.''

Staff would not know for a few weeks who would be redeployed to other parts of the mental health service.

Originally, the board wanted to reduce staff in the ward by nearly 13 (full-time equivalent), but under the final decision, this was reduced by nearly four full-time positions.

Nearly nine full-time positions would be redeployed, although in practice it would be fewer because of existing vacancies, mental health nursing director Heather Casey said last night in an interview.

The board accepted it might have been ''pushing it a bit far'' in the initial proposal, she said.

''It takes a while for the wider services to adjust to bed reductions, and we thought this was a safer and easier transition.''

The board would review occupancy data later this year to see if further adjustments could be made.

''At the moment, we have less than 16 people in those beds, so no patients will be directly affected. Any affected staff will be redeployed elsewhere within the mental health service,'' she said.


Mental health bed reductions

It would seem the SDHB has failed to learn from the Mark Burton case of 2001 which involved the now defunct Southland DHB .

This reduction in mental health beds will put an unbearable load, on both mental health patients and the community .

It is only a matter of time before a similar tragedy unfolds, sending Mental Health managers diving for cover .

We pay either way

Considering the number of people in prisons who are mentally unwell is cannot be a good idea to cut mental health facilities, including inpatient facilities.  While a cut in the cut is a step in the right direction, it seems to me as a taxpayer that I would get better value from the government's use of my dollars to treat these people in a dedicated therapeutic environment instead of picking them up when they offend and putting them in a place which is not about addressing the underlying cause.  Although prisoners can get a certain amount of health care including mental health the emphasis is on containment and management.  This is appropriate for a prison, but not for mentally ill individuals.  Besides, not only law-breakers are affected,  families and the community are under stress dealing with the people trying to deal with their unmanageable interior demons and anguish that cause them to behave they never would if only they were well.  For the sake of us all, including the mentally well, please don't skimp on mental health facilities, it is false economy.

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