Health chief no fan of Wakari refurbishment

Wakari Hospital. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Wakari Hospital. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Southern District Health Board would be "putting good money after bad" if it refurbished mental health facilities in the Wakari Hospital tower block in Dunedin its chief executive says.

A report received by the SDHB last year said that almost all the mental health buildings at Wakari were not fit for purpose, posed a safety risk to staff and patients, and hindered effective treatment.

It has since been reviewing what to do with the complex, much of which was repurposed many years ago as mental health facilities.

Chief executive Chris Fleming told a board meeting on Tuesday he was opposed to trying to patch up the main building at Wakari, but the board would need to fund some kind of interim measure until dedicated mental health facilities could be built.

"Frankly, spending more money on the tower block for mental health is putting good money after bad," Mr Fleming said.

"I wouldn’t want us to spend $50 million to $60 million fixing that up, but it would be a number of millions we would have to spend in the relatively short term."

A strategic site plan was being drafted for the new Dunedin Hospital, and discussion was ongoing as to where acute and in-patient services be sited.

"It could be here at Wakari or it could be at the new hospital, but I think we need to articulate that it is a future vision.

"I will imagine that it will probably be 15 years before that becomes a reality, because that is just how long it takes."

The board would need to devise an interim plan, which Mr Fleming felt should emphasise care in the community and repurposing some facilities at Wakari to enhance their safety and usability for both staff and clients.

Ideally, Dunedin would have a smaller, purpose-built and designed facility for inpatients and acute forensic psychology services, with more appropriate community based residential accommodation, he said.

The SDHB is commissioning an independent report into the provision of mental health services in the south, and had issued a request for proposal to selected consultants, Mr Fleming said.

Documents released to the Otago Daily Times in May under the Official Information Act said the board had been given an estimate it would cost $40 million to renovate the "distressing, sad and dilapidated" facilities at Wakari.

The Government has set aside money in its past two Budgets for capital expenditure to build new mental health facilities.


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Wakari Hospital. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Wakari Hospital. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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