‘What’s really happening in our Mental Health Unit’ – Letter to Kai Tiaki

We write in response to an article about our service in the October issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Under the headline, “Acute mental health units being upgraded” (p8), it was reported that, “A new six-bed inpatient mental health facility at Wellington Hospital will be ready in 2021.” 

Unfortunately, there is nothing in that statement that is true. 

As a standard topic for media sensationalism, mental health services in Wellington sadly suffer from inaccurate reporting, on a regular basis. So we would like to take this opportunity to inform fellow health professionals, in this privileged professional forum, about what is really happening at Te Whare o Matairangi. 

Kai Tiaki New Zealand was correct to report that our 30-bed mental health inpatient unit was one of those named in August by chief ombudsman Peter Boshier as breaching the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, for our use of seclusion rooms to home patients. 

As Stuff has reported, staff had been raising these issues with senior management long before the Chief Ombudsman’s visit. In February this year, for instance, we put them in writing in a collective letter to the chief executive and board of Capital and Coast DHB and the general manager of the mental health, addictions and intellectual disabilities (MHAID) directorate. 

Our letter expressed our concerns as health professionals at the use of inappropriate rooms in our seclusion area to house patients, as well as many other concerns over the safety of staff and patients. 

Although this work has been led by the mental health union, the Public Service Association, we are collaborating closely with NZNO and we are receiving support from the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists. 

In recent meetings with the MHAID directorate leadership team, we have been encouraged by their willingness to acknowledge, and act upon our concerns. We have also met with officials at the Ministry of Health. 

Although the solutions under discussion do not include a new six-bed inpatient mental health facility at Wellington Hospital, we are hopeful that our collective action and union solidarity will yield results which address our concerns and those of Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier. 

  • Ian Monzari, PSA delegate
  • Grant Brookes, RN


The co-editors reply: We apologise for the error in our report last month about mental health unit upgrades. Six new units for the highest needs intellectual disability and mental health patients at Capital & Coast District Health Board will in fact be attached to the current forensic intellectual disability facility at the Rātonga-Rua o Porirua mental health campus in Keneperu, not Wellington Hospital, as reported. Completion is scheduled for 2021.
An updated news story is on p8.

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