DHBs Squandering Mental Health Millions
31 October 2002
DHBs squandering mental health millions
Green Mental Health Spokesperson Sue Bradford today said she was shocked to learn that millions of dollars of core mental health funding was being spent by District Health Boards in areas other than mental health.
"We have a mental health system in meltdown, as witnessed by the damning report into the Burton tragedy earlier today. I expect we'll see an equally damning report of the Auckland region's mental health crisis next week."
Ms Bradford said she had suspected this money was not being properly spent, especially by some of the Auckland DHBs. She said Health Minister Annette King must get to the bottom of this scandal immediately and ensure that all money given to mental health was clearly ring-fenced for mental health services.
"The Greens acknowledge that this Government has pumped many, many millions of new money into the mental health system and we have been very confused as to where the money has been going," said Ms Bradford.
"It certainly isn't going into new beds, additional doctors or nurses, or paying mental health workers decent wages. Now we learn of the outrageous situation in which anywhere up to a dozen DHBs around New Zealand are taking this money and spending it in areas other than core mental health.
"For all we know DHBs could have been squandering this money on more consultants, debt, or more levels of management when we have mentally ill people locked in police cells or being turned onto the streets for lack of resources," she said.
"I challenge the Minister to tell the public how much of the money allocated for addressing our mental health crisis has been spent in other areas, by whom, and what she plans to do about it."
Ms Bradford said news that mental health money was being siphoned off for other spending explained the Government's confusion about what was happening with mental health services, especially in Auckland.
Despite telling parliament on October 8 that new step-down and forensic beds for mentally ill patients are being provided in Auckland (see attached oral question), Mrs King is now unable to say how many new beds - if any - have been provided since April this year, where they are located and when they were introduced. (see written questions).
"This is just not good enough. On the one hand we have the Minister defending her Government's record on mental health, telling parliament that more beds were being provided in Auckland but yet, given two weeks to find out, she cannot tell me anything about them, or even confirm their existence."
"Given the disgraceful situation which has been revealed today in which money for mental health is being spent elsewhere by the health bureaucracy, both the Minister's confusion and the lack of new mental health beds is hardly surprising. What counts now is what this Government does about it," said Ms Bradford.