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Bradford slams DHB's acute unit delay

15 December 2004

Bradford slams DHB's acute unit delay

Green Mental Health Spokesperson Sue Bradford is appalled that the Wellington District Health Board has stalled on its commitment to go ahead with a purpose-built acute unit for people with mental illness.

"The Capital Coast District Health Board seems to have no sense of urgency about the dangerous situations that Ward 27 staff and patients face daily," said Ms Bradford.

"A review of the latest incident in which a patient was critically injured when he jumped from a hospital roof in April illustrates very clearly, how chronically understaffed and overloaded the ward is.

"It defies logic that this tragedy, on top of several others, hasn't been enough to move the sluggish Board into action.

"Mental Health clinical director Murray Patton accepts that the unit 'poorly meets the needs of inpatient care', so how can the DHB reverse its May decision that replacing Ward 27 would be a high priority. Incredibly, the board wants to wait for the review to be completed but that won't be until August 2005.

"How many more injuries and deaths will it take until this DHB comprehends the level of ongoing crisis in its acute mental health services?" said Ms Bradford.

"While Capital Coast has set up several new community services, these simply don't provide the level of care needed for people who are acutely ill and need a safe environment in which they can receive quality treatment."

Ms Bradford said the mental health workforce at Wellington Hospital had been forced to endure an unsatisfactory situation for far too long. Staffing problems were endemic. Nurses and other mental health professionals deserved to work in an environment where their skills could be focused on best practice rather than simply coping with one emergency after another in a situation of endless pressure.

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"I call on the Minister of Health to take immediate action to guarantee that the ongoing crisis at Wellington Hospital will be addressed by the DHB, rather than relegated to the backburner.

"The Government has poured a lot of extra money into mental health, but their responsibility doesn't end there. Surely the Minister has an obligation to ensure certain basic standards are met, before another tragedy occurs."

ENDS

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