by Selwyn Manning.
Today, Kingseat Hospital will be officially closed. The last patients held in the former mental institution will be moved off the rural complex and transported to a newly refurbished secure mental health unit on Bairds Road in Otara.
The move to the Bairds Road unit is controversial with local residents having fought its establishment at Manukau City Council hearings committee meetings and in the Environment Court.
Kingseat was sold by South Auckland Health in 1996, after the Government’s deinstitutionalisation policy insisted a move away from continuing hospitalisation of mentally ill patients in favour of community care and smaller acute and rehabilitation units.
The idea is to bring mentally ill patients out from institutionalised care and place them within communities and closer to their families.
The Bairds Road unit, Tamaki-Oranga, will house 20 mentally ill patients which were identified of needing on-going hospitalisation and rehabilitation. Patient history was questioned in Parliament throughout 1997 by Manukau East MP Ross Robertson.
Mr Robertson questioned the then Minister of Health Bill English on this histories of 16 patients destined for the Bairds Road unit, but until today remained at Kingseat Hospital. Mr Robertson asked whether any of the patients had been forensic patients as detailed under the Mental Health Act, and whether any of the patients had convictions of rape and other violent crimes. Details of patient histories were kept secret due to Privacy Act requirements.
Mr Robertson insisted that the Bairds Road site was inappropriate to hold the 16 patients as it was within a narrow radius walking distance of six schools.
South Auckland Health insists local Otara residents have nothing to fear. The new mental unit is secure. It is sited within the old Spinal Unit complex and is surrounded by electrified fences. It insists no forensic patients will be held at the unit. Although patients, once considered forensic patients but having had their classification eased into a more rehabilitative category, will be able to be housed at the Bairds Road unit.
Due to Manukau City Council consent conditions a Liaison committee between South Auckland Health and local resident representatives has been set up. Meetings have been held over the past three months to allay community fears.
Community spokesperson Sue Watts says Otara people are not against mentally ill people but rather are concerned for the safety of their families should an escape be made from the secure unit.
South Auckland Health managers say such
fears are unwarranted and unjustified. It says having the
patients at the Bairds Road unit allows them to b closer to
their families, whereas Kingseat was isolated. The goal of
the Bairds Road unit is to rehabilitate the patients and
eventually to allow them to again live within the