David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Mental health bed numbers may be cut

Te Whetu Tawera mental health unit. Photo / Doug Sherring
Te Whetu Tawera mental health unit. Photo / Doug Sherring

Bed numbers at Auckland's under-pressure mental health unit face cuts as nursing staff prepare for a two-hour stop work meeting on staff safety.

The Herald on Sunday has confirmed discussions between health boards across the Auckland region about sharing the care of people who need urgent mental health care for serious conditions.

A spokesman for Auckland District Health Board confirmed nursing staff at its acute mental health unit Te Whetu Tawera are sometimes asked to work 17-hour shifts.

The Public Service Association has voiced concerns about assaults and staff safety at the unit. Staff at the unit are stopping work for two hours tomorrow to consider a plan put forward by management to reduce the burden.

The Herald on Sunday revealed this month hospital management had no idea how often or how seriously staff at the unit were being assaulted. It emerged there were 131 assaults on about 120 staff over a 12 month period.

The board has since overhauled its way of recording assaults.

It is understood hospital managers have considered cutting bed numbers to reduce the burden on staff. Te Whetu Tawera currently has capacity for 58 acutely unwell people.

PSA spokesman Brendon Lane said hospital management had offered a deal to resolve concerns around staff safety, workload and assaults by patients.

He said members would vote on a "short-term measure'' which would look at the "flow of patients across the region and how they might be managed across the region".

An Auckland hospital spokesman said it was "working positively with the union" and would not detail the discussions.

A spokeswoman for Counties Manukau District Health Board said there was no final internal or cross-DHB decision on sharing the load.

A spokesman for associate health minister Jonathan Coleman said he had assurances a recent review had studied issues of staff safety. He said the service was "functioning at a high standard".

- Herald on Sunday

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