The security system at Wellington hospitals, including extremely high-risk mental health inpatient units housing rapists and deranged killers, could fail at any time, according to a leaked report that calls for an urgent upgrade.
The document, obtained by the Herald, says the reliability of the security management systems at Wellington Regional Hospital and Kenepuru Hospital posed a "significant and immediate security and safety risk" to staff, patients, and visitors.
"Security and safety is now being compromised by the system's basic operational reliability," said a detailed business case to upgrade the security system, which was presented to Gina Lomax, executive director at Capital & Coast District Health Board (CCDHB), last month.
Wellington Regional Hospital manages the security system for two Mental Health and Intellectual Disability (MHAID) inpatient units: Te Whare o Matairangi at Wellington Hospital and Kenepuru — areas deemed "extremely high risk".
Kenepuru's acute forensic inpatient secure unit Purehurehu has housed some of New Zealand's most notorious offenders, found not guilty by reason of insanity, including Leslie Raymond Parr who, in 1997, stabbed and beheaded 31-year-old Fiona Maulolo in her Lower Hutt home, and paranoid schizophrenic Richard Charles Vau Hawkins who knifed his brother Brent to death in 2002.
While the CCDHB accepted that improvements need to be made, it responded to Herald questions last night to say: "The security systems at all our facilities — including forensic — function and operate as they should to ensure safety and security.
"We recognise, however, that integrating various security systems across our facilities would allow for greater efficiency and optimal use of current technology," said Nigel Fairley, mental health, addictions and intellectual disability service general manager.
"We are currently considering a business case that looks at integrating our electronic security and monitoring network across Wellington Regional Hospital and all mental health inpatient facilities."
The DHB refused to discuss details around cost and other operational information, citing commercial sensitivity.
The Office of the Minister of Health referred questions around security concerns to the CCDHB, saying it was an operational matter.
The report said system failures could result in "unfettered egress from high-risk inpatient facilities" and a failure to respond to "threats, abuse and violence".
There had been 1478 violent incidents across Wellington Regional Hospital facilities over the last two years.
In January alone, there were 25 incidents involving either restraints, security watches, aggressive patients, suspicious behaviour, trespassed people, or disorderly people on site.
"These incidents can quickly become life-threatening if not responded to rapidly and effectively," says the stark report, which was penned by CCDHB staff.
"Recent incidents at Wellington Regional Hospital have included dealing with the potential of gang retribution onsite after the admission of a gunshot victim."
The New Zealand Public Service Association (PSA) said it too had "serious concerns" about the security system at Kenepuru Hospital and were concerned for the safety of staff.
Strategically placed CCTV records human movement, flow and access in CCDHB areas and at most sites is monitored 24/7 by Orderly Security Services (OSS). It also features a duress system to trigger emergency alarms. But the security system's componentry is reaching end-of-life and both software and hardware are due for upgrades.
The business case seeks approval for $429,000 for 2018/19 to make the hardware replacement and systems upgrade required for the organisation to meet statutory obligations to "take all reasonable practicable precautions" to ensure the safety of staff, patients and visitors to DHB premises.
PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay said the union had been in discussions with CCDHB.
"We have heard anecdotal reports of failures and we are concerned for the safety of our members, their patients and others using the hospital," he said.
"We understand that a business case for replacing the system has been made, and the DHB's preference is to fix the urgent issues with a view to an upgrade in the longer term."
Concerns around the safety of Wellington's mental health services emerged last year. A review was ordered after five mental health patients were charged with homicide between February 2015 and March 2016.