The Office of the Ombudsman has recommended a mental health unit in Nelson not routinely admit new patients to seclusion, and give those in seclusion access to fresh air.
The move follows a site visit in April by the Ombudsman's office to Wahi Oranga Mental Health Inpatient Unit in Nelson as part of a report on the conditions and treatment of clients there.
Recommendations made following the visit included ensuring daily access to fresh air for clients undergoing a period of seclusion, and not routinely admitting new admissions to a seclusion room.
Further recommendations were that the unit should develop a locked-door policy around the process for entry and exit into the unit for voluntary clients and visitors, and the unit should consider reviewing the weekly activities on offer to clients, after consulting them.
General manager of mental health and addictions Robyn Byers said in a memo to the board that steps had already been taken to address concerns. She said the original design of the seclusion area included a courtyard but it led to various altercations when transferring a patient so it was no longer used.
Ms Byers said an extensive programme around activities was already in place, which was designed to be therapeutic as opposed to entertaining. She said it included individual and group activities, and was discussed at weekly patient meetings and tailored to suit the clients.
The DHB's website said the unit "provides treatment for adolescents and adults who cannot be treated in the community and require a short period of time in inpatient care".
In 2007, the Ombudsman's office was designated one of the National Preventive Mechanisms under the Crimes of Torture Act. They were responsible for examining and monitoring the general conditions and treatment of clients in New Zealand secure hospitals.
All health boards were subject to unannounced visits. The report found no problems at the Nelson-Marlborough health board's older person's care unit in Richmond.
The Mental Health Foundation said recently the [http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/306669/govt-defends-treatment-of-autistic-man
"barbaric" use of seclusion] for patients in long-term care was a cause for national shame.
The comments came after a report from Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier found the detention of 35-year-old Ashley Peacock in a tiny room - with just a mattress and a urine bottle - was cruel, inhuman and degrading.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said seclusion was completely inappropriate and should be a thing of the past.