2 Dec 2022

Christchurch in-patient mental health unit closes due to staff shortages

8:09 pm on 2 December 2022
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The Tupuna ward would close following extensive consultation Photo: Canterbury DHB

Staff shortages have forced the closure of an in-patient mental health unit at Christchurch's Hillmorton Hospital.

Te Whatu Ora said the 15-bed Tupuna ward would close following an extensive consultation process in which 47 submissions were received.

Tupuna provides 24-hour inpatient care for people who require longer-term stays as they prepare to return to the community.

Canterbury Specialist Mental Health Service general manager Dr Greg Hamilton said the unit had 13 full-time staff and had been relying on casuals and nurses working extra duties.

"Tupuna's bed numbers have been reduced this year due to difficulties sustaining an appropriate staff mix in the unit," he said.

"Despite staff's best efforts we acknowledge that we haven't able to provide consistent staffing due to workforce challenges that are impacting all our services."

Tupuna staff and the nine current patients had been informed of the decision, Hamilton said.

"The focus is now on supporting staff to transition to new roles within the specialist mental health service and working closely with tāngata whaiora and their whānau to find alternative care and support options both in the community or in other inpatient services.

"There is no fixed time-frame for tāngata whaiora to move, it will happen over coming weeks to ensure services are well matched to people's needs."

Te Whatu Ora said the building housing Tupuna would be renovated and should be ready to accommodate up to 16 patients by the end of next August.

The new model of care for acute inpatients was yet to be finalised.

On Wednesday Health Minister Andrew Little announced the government had given final approval to a new 80-bed adult acute mental health unit at Hillmorton and was spending an extra $51 million on the project.

The government had earmarked $78.3 million for the unit in this year's budget, but will now spend $129.3 million.

"This is the second stage of Hillmorton's major infrastructure redevelopment programme and is one of the largest investments ever made in New Zealand's mental health infrastructure in history," Little said.

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