Full health facility means jail for woman

A woman who allegedly robbed a South Dunedin liquor store will spend time behind bars because there is no room on a mental-health ward.

The 43-year-old appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday when concerns for her mental health were raised.

After an assessment by forensic staff in the court's cells, Judge Kevin Phillips expressed a desire to have the defendant remanded to Wakari Hospital.

But it was full.

The judge said he had no choice but to remand the woman in custody (to Christchurch Women's Prison), pending her next court appearance on September 10.

Southern District Health Board (SDHB) mental health general manager Louise Travers said forensic services in Canterbury would ''be able to provide input'' if they were required.

She confirmed Ward 9A - the forensic ward at Wakari Hospital where remand patients were housed - was full.

''Ward 9A usually has a waitlist of one to two people prioritised for admission at most times. These people are usually in the Otago Correctional Facility (OCF) and may be treated in the OCF Intervention and Support Unit if necessary until a bed on Ward 9A is available.

''Southern DHB Forensic staff can continue to assess and make recommendations on treatment,'' Ms Travers said.

OCF only accommodates male prisoners.

Judge Phillips ordered the defendant be assessed for fitness to stand trial and insanity while she was in custody.

He said he wanted to make it ''very, very clear'' the preliminary reports must be completed in the next two weeks.

It is alleged on Saturday, the woman took an axe to Thirsty Liquor in Hillside Rd where she stole two boxes of Woodstock bourbon and a packet of cigarettes at a total value of $83.50.

She is also charged with threatening to kill.

The judge granted her interim name suppression at the request of defence counsel Brian Kilkelly, and refused an application for bail.

SDHB figures recently released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act showed the forensic ward at Wakari Hospital was full for 48 nights last year - just over 13% of the time.

The rehabilitation ward was the facility's most in demand, being at capacity for 295 nights, while two acute wards were full for 148 and 203 nights respectively.

SDHB does not record the number of people turned away from emergency psychiatric care.

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