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Proposed cuts to Wakari Hospital mental health beds have been scaled back by the Southern District Health Board.
The board wanted to halve capacity in ward 11,Wakari's sub-acute ward, from 24 beds to 12, sparking public and staff concern the move would put pressure on community services.
In a document released yesterday the board said it listened to concerns and would instead reduce beds to 16.
''We agree ... the reduction to 12 beds may increase pressure on other services and inpatient beds. While we believe this issue can be mitigated, we accept the need to allow time for all services to adjust to a decrease in beds across the district.''
Public Service Association southern region organiser Julie Morton was surprised by the change of heart, which she said signalled a more sensible step towards what was likely to be further reductions.
''I assumed that despite consultation this was a fait accompli.''
Staff would not know for a few weeks who would be redeployed to other parts of the mental health service.
Originally, the board wanted to reduce staff in the ward by nearly 13 (full-time equivalent), but under the final decision, this was reduced by nearly four full-time positions.
Nearly nine full-time positions would be redeployed, although in practice it would be fewer because of existing vacancies, mental health nursing director Heather Casey said last night in an interview.
The board accepted it might have been ''pushing it a bit far'' in the initial proposal, she said.
''It takes a while for the wider services to adjust to bed reductions, and we thought this was a safer and easier transition.''
The board would review occupancy data later this year to see if further adjustments could be made.
''At the moment, we have less than 16 people in those beds, so no patients will be directly affected. Any affected staff will be redeployed elsewhere within the mental health service,'' she said.