7 Nov 2021

New mental health ward underway for Palmerston North

6:02 pm on 7 November 2021

A new mental health ward at Palmerston North Hospital is in the final stages of its design and construction phase.

MidCentral District Health board vaccination rates largely mirror national ones.

Photo: RNZ / Jimmy Ellingham

Reviews found the ward not fit for purpose after two suspected suicides of patients in 2014.

And a coroner is investigating the death last weekend of a 19-year-old patient on the ward.

MidCentral District Health Board chief executive Kathryn Cook said external parties were confirming the new ward's design. It is scheduled for completion by late next year.

Design work, by CCM Architects, started in February.

The board had previously confirmed the new ward would open with 30 beds and extend to 38 if needed. The present ward has capacity for 28 patients.

The Crown has approved $30 million of funding for the new ward and MidCentral a contingency fund of $5m.

Cabinet signed off on the government funding ahead of last year's election. In 2019, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern toured the present ward, describing it as more like a prison than somewhere where people could go to recover from a crisis.

Meanwhile, after last weekend's incident Ricky Gray, the brother of Shaun Gray, who died in one of the 2014 suspected suicides, called for an independent review to see if lessons were learned from previous investigations.

Ricky Gray said it felt as if measures previously put in place were being taken away, such as having a clinical executive for mental health and addictions.

No direct replacement for Vanessa Caldwell, who left that position in September for a term as deputy health and disability commissioner, has been appointed.

In a statement, Cook said a review had been undertaken of the clinical leadership structure of the board's mental health and addictions division.

"The preferred leadership structure will be going out to consultation within the next two weeks."

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

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Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

OUTLine: 0800 688 5463 (6pm-9pm)

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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