Mental health beds may be reduced

AMANDA PARKINSON
Last updated 05:00 14/02/2014

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The Southern District Health Board is considering closing 16 mental health beds in Invercargill and Dunedin.

The proposal is to close 12 beds at the Wakari site in Dunedin and four at Southland Hospital.

Submissions close today and will be considered by the board. If the Southland beds close, its capacity will drop to 15.

Southern District Health Board spokeswoman Heather Casey said the reduction of beds at Southland would be managed by "managing acute bed capacity across the district", and working with the wider mental health sector to support a smooth change "from in-patient to community settings".

In-patient care was not the preferred option for many people receiving treatment, she said.

The board was implementing a strategic plan for mental health and addictions that had been widely consulted on and was well supported by relevant non-government organisations, she said.

The plan, called Raise Hope, aimed to provide more care for people in the least restrictive environment "with minimum disruption to people's lives".

The board said it had averaged 84 per cent capacity in its Southland Hospital mental health beds for the past two years, but The Southland Times understands in recent months it has peaked much higher.

Board mental health, addictions and intellectual disability medical director James Knight said space was not an issue.

"No rooms have been permanently converted to bedrooms in the Southland mental health unit, but flexible spaces can be utilised and beds arranged to meet an increase of patients."

The Southland Times understands that, in the past, one of the "spaces" converted into a temporary bedroom was an in-patient lounge room.

Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust chief executive Tracy Wright-Tawha, of Invercargill said she was unaware that the board had proposed closing more beds.

Mrs Wright-Tawha said Nga Kete referred between six and eight clients a year but she was not sure what impact that may have on them.

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