Bed closures at He Puna Waiora "the tip of the iceberg" in mental health


The closure of eight beds at He Puna Waiora acute mental health unit on Auckland’s North Shore is just the tip of the iceberg, the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi says.

Waitemata District Health Board has closed the beds due to a shortage of mental health nurses and concerns for safety of staff and patients.

"He Puna Waiora is currently 12 nurses short, and the beds will be closed while staff numbers recuperate", PSA National Organiser Ashok Shankar says.

"There are serious staffing issues elsewhere in Auckland, too.

"There are 18 nurse vacancies at Te Whetu Tawera, the acute inpatient service at Auckland Hospital.

"Community Acute Service shifts at Auckland DHB have had to close because there are not enough nurses to provide it.

The PSA says District Health Boards across the country are not receiving sufficient funding to safely staff their existing facilities - let alone cope with the projected increase in demand.

"The Ministry of Health’s own figures predict a doubling of demand for mental health and addiction services by 2020," Mr Shankar says.

"Our members tell us the system is under extreme stress right now, and there’s no way it can cope with that projected increase.

"They’re regularly working sixteen-hour shifts to provide care for patients, and say they can’t carry on doing their jobs under these conditions.

"The government needs to urgently dedicate proper funding to mental health, restore the ring-fence and look seriously at how the system will cope with spiralling demand for its services."