Ward opens after $7.8m make-over

20:39, Jul 02 2012
Nigel Fairley
REVAMPED: The main courtyard at Wellington Hospital's mental health unit.

Wellington Hospital's mental health ward will open today after a $7.8 million refurbishment.

Te Whare o Matairangi, formally known as Ward 27, reeked of the 1970s before the 14 month overhaul, Capital and Coast District Health Board executive director operations mental health directorate Nigel Fairley said.

"It was old, it was tired, it was really built for a different purpose and different cliental. It reflected a different model of care, it didn't allow for individual needs.''

Nigel Fairley
NEW LOOK: Nigel Fairley of Capital and Coast's mental health directorate, in the music room of the newly refurbished Ward 27.

The refurbishment follows years of concerns about patient safety. At least three patients have come to harm after managing to get out of the ward.

In 2003, Chad Buckle died after walking away unnoticed. Another patient was critically hurt when he left the ward and climbed into a tiger enclosure at Wellington Zoo, where he was mauled.

In 2004, a man was critically injured when he attempted suicide by jumping six storeys from a hospital roof after leaving the ward by climbing down a tree.


A report in 2006 found the ward was substandard and unsafe, and recommended complete replacement
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne will open the unit today.

During construction, clients and staff were relocated to the Ratonga Rua-o-Porirua campus at Kenepuru Hospital in Porirua. They will be transferred to the Wellington unit tomorrow.

The acute inpatient unit provides services for people experiencing severe mental distress who are too unwell to be at home.

The focus for treatment at the unit is on recovery and returning to everyday life in the community.

There are 18 beds in the acute locked unit and 11 in the transitional unlocked unit - both are now divided into male and female sections.

Most mental health services are delivered in the community rather than in the secure unit, Mr Fairley said.

A music room complete with a percussion board created out of pots, hub caps and utensils attached to an old steel bed frame is a new addition.

The soothing sensory room is a new time-out space where clients can sit in a massage chair or on a fluffy rug and watch images projected onto the walls, accompanied by music.

There's also a gym, television rooms, phone booths and spacious communal areas.

"It's like chalk and cheese, it's very, very, very different,'' Mr Fairley said.

"In the previous facility we couldn't separate our acute stuff and transitional stuff - it was all mixed together. ''The building was either locked or open. The space wasn't big enough.''

The unit has been expanded by 1000 square metres and includes three new courtyards in addition to the main courtyard.

The sally port where acute clients arrive doubles as a pool room and basketball court. The spiritual room is inspired by chapels and marae and is also where judges sit for court hearings.

All 29 single secure bedrooms now have a desk, chair, wardrobe and either a window or skylight.

But there is still a need for seclusion rooms where clients or consumers  formally known as patients  cannot harm themselves.

During construction, clients and staff were relocated to the Ratonga Rua-o-Porirua campus at Kenepuru Hospital in Porirua. They will be transferred to the Wellington unit tomorrow.

Capital and Coast board member Helene Ritchie said the ''long overdue'' refurbishment took more than a decade of campaigning.

She described the transformation of the unit as "fantastic''.

"There is much light, much open space, attractive outdoor spaces, space for physical activity, music and other therapies, places to sleep, places to find refuge. The unit is visually open to the surrounding neighbourhoods and the feeling is one of participation with the 'outside' world, rather than one of being closed off.''

Contact Bronwyn Torrie
Health reporter
Email: bronwyn.torrie@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @brontorrie

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