Mental health change part of hospital rebuild

New Southern District Health Board director of mental health Evan Mason. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
New Southern District Health Board director of mental health Evan Mason. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The Southern District Health Board's mental health directorate is working with the team delivering the rebuild of Dunedin Hospital about improving its facilities, new mental health director Evan Mason says.

No decisions have yet been made about where mental health services will be sited in the planning for the new Dunedin Hospital rebuild, but they are now housed across a range of buildings at Wakari Hospital, many of which are older and some of which were not designed for their current use.

"If we were rebuilding today, things would be a lot different,'' Dr Mason said.

"We have to be realistic, the main hospital rebuild is going on and that will take some time, but we are already working with the same teams informing the main hospital build around what would be ideal, trying to get information about recent hospital builds in other places such as Australia, and working out what would be ideal for here so we have a plan ...

"We are trying to improve the facilities here as much as we can, but at the same time trying to shift the attention away from the hospital to the whole community response to mental illness.''

It was recently revealed that there had been been nearly 1000 incidents of physical and sexual abuse in two years at Ward 10A at Wakari, one of the site's older buildings.

Dr Mason said the SDHB was working to ensure 10A staff had the right training and experience to work in a challenging environment.

"I think we do. We have some of the most trained staff there, but the facility is dated and if we were rebuilding today it would be quite different, so we keep looking at the interaction between the physical environment, the staff, and patient needs and try to improve all of those things.''

Dr Mason, a doctor who additionally qualified as a psychiatrist in 2009, assumed some of former mental health director Brad Strong's duties last year.

Dr Mason took on the role full-time earlier this year.

"Working on quality improvement is what I am interested in,'' Dr Mason said.

"I have ideas myself, but it will be very much a team approach, based on the evidence of what works, and what things have worked in other areas.''

Dr Mason said much would depend on the still-to-be-released Government response to the recommendations of its ministerial inquiry into mental health and addiction issues.

"We are very keen to see what they come up with, but having said that, we have got the findings of the inquiry itself, and they really echo a lot of the issues that we have identified already over the past few years.

"Historically, we have focused most on mental illness, crisis work and assessment, and then re-engaging people with the community and other services in the community ... I am seeing that I need to take a wider view of the sector, but the hospital is a very small part of that.

"Areas like changes in schools, working with families, improving children's health, are all things that are going to steadily improve mental health over the next 20 to 50 years but they are not things which have been the bread and butter of mental health services, and those are areas we need to work with.''

Dr Mason said he was confident anyone who presented at the SDHB's mental health services would get the care they needed, and he hoped to strengthen primary care services in the community so people had options before they found themselves in emergency need.

"We want to be delivering the right interventions for people in order them them to get better.''

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

 

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