Assaults in Wakari ward concern union

The nurses' union is meeting the Southern District Health Board's mental health service to discuss an increase in assaults in a Dunedin inpatient ward.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation organiser Celeste Crawford said her members had concerns about locked ward 9B at Wakari Hospital.

A meeting is scheduled tomorrow.

Ms Crawford said there had been an increase in both patient-on-staff assaults and patient-on-patient assaults.

There were also reports the ward was crowded with patients. This was partly due to difficulty discharging some patients because of a lack of suitable places in the community.

''Members [are] saying that people come into the ward and there's nowhere for them to go when they're going back into the community.''

Some older nurses had left, and there was a lack of experienced staff.

''It's hard in mental health to fill those positions with experienced mental health nurses, so that causes the experience mix to be a bit unbalanced.

''Put that in context with ... higher numbers in the wards, and patients with higher needs, and it just puts pressure on a system,'' Ms Crawford said.

In a written response, mental health medical director Dr Brad Strong confirmed assaults on staff had increased this year.

''There was a noticeable increase in the number of injuries to staff in April 2017 when there were 10 more injuries than the previous month. This returned to the previous level in May,'' Dr Strong said.

Ward occupancy could be as high as 108%, he said.

''There has been a well-discussed overall increase in demand for mental health services in recent years which impacts on inpatient services.

''The service supports patients to find the most appropriate accommodation upon discharge,'' Dr Strong said.

The ward was ''resourced appropriately'' and staffing gaps were filled by casual or part-time staff.

''There have been some staff changes recently and sometimes recruiting and starting new people takes longer than we would like.''


Assault is a police matter and patients are rightly charged. Health and Safety laws apply in the workplace, but DHB's are afflicted with the macro structural failings of govt policy. Dr Strong is doing his bit by maintaining the patient centred model of practice, but patients don't have 'Rights' to whack anyone.



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