Wakari practices to be examined

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
Crown workplace safety agency WorkSafe will scrutinise health and safety practices at Wakari Hospital after being notified of an issue at the hospital last month.

WorkSafe did not specify the nature of the incident, but said it did not meet the threshold to order a formal investigation.

However, it was of sufficient concern for WorkSafe to take action and undertake "a proactive workplace assessment'' at the hospital.

WorkSafe's interest in safety matters at Wakari comes soon after the release of a confidential Sapere report into mental health and addiction facilities at the hospital, which was supplied to the Otago Daily Times earlier this month.

The report said many of the facilities at Wakari were not fit for purpose, posing safety risks to both patients and staff, and hindering the quality of care of patients.

Three out of four outpatient facilities had design and/or structural flaws, and most of the wards had issues which posed safety issues for anyone working or living at the hospital, and visitors.

Ward 10a at Wakari, a mental health and intellectual disability inpatient unit, has the highest incident and staff injury rate of any facilities in the SDHB, the Sapere report said.

A WorkSafe spokeswoman said many workplaces, including hospitals, had regular assessments of their health and safety standards and policies.

"Sometimes when we have had issues raised with us but are not going to take enforcement action, because perhaps the concerns are not severe enough, we will come in and do an extra assessment and make sure we are comfortable they have enough measures in place for keeping workers and members of the public safe.''

A proactive assessment could lead to enforcement action or the lodgement of a notice to improve a service within a set timeframe, she said.

WorkSafe carried out a series of assessments at Christchurch's Hillmorton Hospital last year after a string of serious violent incidents at the facility.

The Southern District Health Board is well aware of the issues at Wakari and has already undertaken some remedial work.

"We are aware WorkSafe is interested to find out more about our work environment,'' SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said.

"We are happy to engage with them in the interests of the health and safety of our patients and staff.''

The Sapere report was commissioned by the SDHB as an initial stocktake of the state of Wakari; the SDHB commissioner team has yet to see a promised follow-up report on options to repair or possibly replace Wakari.

Mr Fleming said the SDHB was still considering the best way to advance improvements at Wakari, in the context of other health reforms and the new Dunedin Hospital project. Mental health facilities are not in the scope of the new hospital plans.

"In the meantime, while we are limited in terms of how much the existing buildings can be modified,

we are continuing to do what we can to improve them for patients and staff - for example by replacing floor coverings in areas, and upgrading some intercom and door access systems to improve communication and safety,'' Mr Fleming said.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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