Wakari facility 'no longer fit for use in current state'

Wakari Hospital. Photo: ODT files.
Mental health facilities at Wakari Hospital are no longer fit for use and staff are considering asking the Government to fund a revamp.

But any new facilities are many years away, a Southern District Health Board commissioners meeting will be told today.

Board staff are still drafting reports and papers for commissioners, but their preliminary view was likely to be that the board should develop a business case to take to the Government for funding.

Mental health services are housed across several buildings in the Wakari complex, including an old nurse's hostel.

Only two blocks are recent builds and designed for their purpose.

Last week the board's recently appointed mental health director Evan Mason said "if we were rebuilding [Wakari] today, things would be a lot different,'' but cautioned the hospital rebuild meant improvements were likely some time away.

Board specialist services director Patrick Ng's report to commissioners said a report on Wakari had been commissioned from external consultants, and staff had recently met the mental health network leadership group to discuss its findings.

A further report is to be drafted for consideration by the group, but Mr Ng said without pre-empting that document it would probably say it was believed any future development of mental health facilities was ``many years away.''

"Our facilities are no longer fit for use in their current state.

"An investment is required to improve their fitness for use in the meantime,'' Mr Ng said.

"In some cases our model of care delivery and the services we provide is out of date and no longer contemporary.

"We should be considering changes here at the same time as we improve our facilities.''

However, any changes were likely to be a decade or more away unless a successful business case for additional capital funding was made to the Government, and that was likely to be the recommendation given to board commissioners, Mr Ng said.

While decisions have yet to be made if mental health services will remain at Wakari or be incorporated into the new Dunedin Hospital, Mr Ng's report indicated that whatever was decided, money would need to be spent at Wakari, either on stopgap measures or on new facilities.

The board will also have to factor in the Government's response to the mental health inquiry, which will be released today.

Life Matters suicide prevention trust founder Corinda Taylor agreed that Wakari was unfit for purpose and said it created safety risks for both patients and staff.

"The negative flow-on effect can be detrimental to recovery for many,'' Mrs Taylor said.

"It could lead to longer stays in a non-therapeutic environment leading to increased seclusion rates, and it could also lead to increased readmissions.''

She supported a potential upgrade, but said service users had to be involved in the design so it provided appropriate and quality care of people.



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