Workers join criticism of Wakari facilities

Brian Dixon
Brian Dixon
Patients and staff deserve better facilities than those available at Wakari Hospital, mental health sector workers say.

Details of a confidential stocktake report of the hospital, reported by the Otago Daily Times yesterday, vindicated staff concerns about safety and work conditions at Wakari, New Zealand Nurses Organisation professional nurse adviser Michelle McGrath said.

''We have heard from many members about the buildings not being fit for purpose, and safety is a major issue for members working there - not just for staff but also for patients,'' she said.

''They are making the best of what the facilities are, they are doing their best, but in a building that was fit for purpose there would be even better patient outcomes.''

Dunedin psychologist Brian Dixon, the New Zealand Psychological Society scientific issues director, said some facilities at Wakari were ''not optimum for enhancing clinical wellbeing.''

If people needed to be in a mental health hospital facility, they should have the best facilities possible available to them, he said.

''Nine C, which has been refurbished, is the sort of environment we should be aiming for.

''It is a good thing that there is money allocated in the most recent and in future budgets for mental health services and facilities.

''We do require better working conditions for staff, and we need to meet the basic needs of clients.''

Any working environment which was considered unsafe needed to be improved, Mr Dixon said.

Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust founder Corinda Taylor said confirmation of conditions at Wakari raised the question whether the hospital was the right place for people with mental illness to heal.

''The buildings don't need to be state of the art, but you do want something that is functional, practical, and doesn't hamper people's care.

''My worry is that now they have identified that the buildings are a problem, what is the next step and how is that going to influence our future care?''

Mental health is not in the scope of the new Dunedin Hospital project.

The Southern District Health Board commissioned Sapere Research Group to report on Wakari, to help it decide what to do with the facility.

Chief executive Chris Fleming said the report ''raises important points, many of which are not new to us'' and that it would influence future board decisions about mental health facilities.

Wakari is well-used; wards have occupancy rates averaging between 72% and 98%.

The Sapere report said not-fit-for-purpose facilities at Wakari had significant negative flow-on effects to the standard of care provided.

Add a Comment