Facelift brings fresh start for mental health facility

By anne-marie.emerson@wanganuichronicle.co.nz, Anne-Marie Emerson


Wanganui Hospital's acute mental health unit was formally reopened yesterday after an extensive renovation.

Te Awhina was opened by the national director of mental health, John Crawshaw, and the mental health commissioner, Lynne Lane, at a ceremony attended by around 100 people.

They included Whanganui District Health Board chairwoman Kate Joblin, other board members, DHB chief executive Julie Patterson, hospital staff, iwi members and past patients of Te Awhina.

The unit was opened in 1981 and has had only one minor refurbishment since then in the 1990s, when psychiatric hospital Lake Alice closed down.

The revamped unit is light and bright, with artwork on the walls and increased privacy for patients.

It also includes innovative treatments such as sensory modulation rooms, which allow staff to use a patient's physical senses to help change their mood, as an alternative to administering medication.

Dr Lane told the crowd that her last visit to Wanganui had included a trip up the Whanganui River in the company of Te Tai Hauauru MP Tariana Turia, who had told her in no uncertain terms about the poor state of mental health services in her region.

"I am pleased to see that very significant strides towards improving mental health services have been made since then.

"This project is a reflection of that," she said.

Dr Lane said everybody gained from the renovation.

"Everybody who comes here will feel cared for, and staff will want to work here," she said.

Dr Crawshaw said he had seen the plans for the unit's re-build a long time ago.

"It is lovely to come here and see those plans completed," he said.

The renovation took a year to complete and cost $3.5 million.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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