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DHB Elections A Democratic Farce – Says Candidate

DHB Elections A Democratic Farce – Says Candidate

This year’s District Health Board elections are “turning into a farce” according to the Manager of the Wellington Mental Health Consumer Union Sarah Porter.

Ms Porter who is standing as a candidate for the Wellington DHB Capital & Coast Health says that as one of forty candidates for seven positions it is almost impossible to get publicity.

Nationwide 500 candidates are standing for 147 elected Board positions across New Zealand

“What was billed as a wonderful democratic process is rapidly becoming a democratic tragedy,” she says.

‘The most you can get is 150 words, a photograph and a small advertisement in the community papers and a short profile in the information booklet that goes out to the public with their voting packs. It’s almost impossible for people to get the information they need to make informed and intelligent choices,” she says.

“How do you really find out about people in 150 words and how do you check on which of the incumbent members have performed well?

“How does someone in Island Bay find out about candidates on the Kapiti Coast or Porirua? To add to this we have the complication and confusion of voting in our first-ever STV election,” she says.

Ms Porter says she has put herself forward as a DHB candidate because she is “passionate” about improving mental health services in the Wellington region.

“As part of my job with the Wellington Mental Health Consumer Union I have visited thousands of mental health consumers in a variety of in-patient mental health units in Wellington.

“Tax payers are spending $600 - $700 a day per person for care in these facilities – they are phenomenally expensive and frighteningly ineffective,” she says.

Ms Porter believes precious mental health money is being spent where it is least likely to be effective.

“A small proportion of people are getting the lion’s share of resources. People are moving through in-patient units at appallingly slow speed. I’ve been visiting the same places for the past three and a half years and the same people are still there. They don’t seem to be making much progress mentally and their physical health is slipping,” she says.

“The problem lies in the Ministry’s of Health policy directing most of the mental health budget towards the three per cent of people who have chronic and enduring mental health problems. What this is saying is that they won’t give resources to people until they are unlikely to get better.

“At the moment the other 97 per cent of people are not qualifying for help – even when they are in crisis and often we see tragic consequences because of this. It is very hard to get people referred to mental health teams – sometimes it can take six to eight weeks for consumers to get appointments for appropriate help.

Ms Porter says she believes more resources should be directed through primary health services with back-up and expertise being provided by secondary services.

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