Acute mental health units being upgraded

October 1, 2020

A new six-bed inpatient mental health facility at Wellington Hospital will be ready in 2021, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has confirmed.

The hospital’s 30-bed Te Whare o Matairangi mental health inpatient unit was one of two named in August by chief ombudsman Peter Boshier as breaching the United Nations’ convention against torture “and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” for its use of seclusion rooms to home patients.

The other was Waitakere Hospital, where a patient was being housed long-term in the intensive care unit.

NZNO mental health nurses’ section chair Helen Garrick has said its concerns about acute mental health bed shortages were “ignored” in the Government’s mental health services inquiry and in its 2019 report, Ha Ara Oranga.

Nurses were often blamed when things went wrong and faced ethical dilemmas when faced with decisions about patient admissions and discharges, she said.

A spokesman for Health Minister Chris Hipkins said the Government had announced some $330 million worth of investments in new and upgraded mental health facilities. But it was not yet clear how many more beds would result, as designs were still being finalised.

“Over time, as we roll out the new, free mental health support at a community/primary care level, we would hope to see more people get early intervention to help prevent small issues from becoming big problems,” the spokesman said.

Other upgrades or replacements of facilities in the planning and design stages include the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre in Hamilton, Hillmorton campus in Christchurch, and hospitals in Palmerston North, Hauora Tairāwhiti Gisborne, Tauranga, Whakatāne, Hutt Valley and Taranaki. Final bed numbers at most of these facilities were still to be confirmed.