Hospital ward described as a ‘pressure cooker’

Wakari Hospital’s Ward 10a is a "pressure cooker" trying to care for people who would be better off elsewhere, a mental health professional says.

The Dunedin ward was sternly criticised this week by chief ombudsman Judge Peter Boshier, who, following an unannounced inspection, assessed the facility as a volatile environment which was not fit for purpose.

Kerry Hand, of mental health service Miramare, said disability services funding to care for the intellectually disabled people who lived in Ward 10a was not usually given to district health boards.

"You would have to wonder why the Southern District Health Board is trying to do this work at all," he said.

"It’s not common in the rest of the country that they would be working with this group of people at all."

The ward was set up and run as a hospital ward so was an inflexible space, a problem not aided by a large fence being erected around the ward some years ago.

"So it’s even more of a pressure cooker," Mr Hand said.

"It’s quite confined space-wise, and with these high-needs people that puts pressure on that just generates conflict.

"A hospital ward system just doesn’t work for them, and the best thing is to create an environment that reduces the challenges in the first place."

Ward 10A, like many of the Wakari buildings, was not originally built as a health facility.

The SDHB has long been aware of its faults and has been preparing a proposal to put to the Ministry of Health about the future of the complex.

Otago Southland Psychological Society president Brian Dixon said the report only represented a snapshot of the huge problem New Zealand had with underfunded, understaffed and poorly resourced services and facilities.

"Staff, patients and families are suffering unnecessarily with inadequate facilities and substandard treatment in our hospitals, brought about by decades of neglect by governments and DHBs," he said.

"As a result, Aotearoa/New Zealand has slipped well behind other countries in the quality of our mental health care for our people.

"The problem is massive now but doing nothing and confining some of our most vulnerable people in appallingly bad facilities is not the answer."

The society had just made a submission to Parliament which called for urgent action to improve community mental health facilities, Mr Dixon said.



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