A former patient at Taranaki Base Hospital has criticised the conditions of the mental health ward, alleging the entrance was stained with blood, a chair covered in faeces, and that people were double-bunking due to demand.
The Taranaki District Health Board denied most of the allegations, saying the ward was regularly cleaned - and that the patient had mistaken coffee stains for blood stains.
The patient, who wished to remain anonymous, shared images of his ward after a stay earlier this year.
The former patient, who is bipolar and has post-traumatic stress disorder, told the Herald he had been admitted to the mental-health ward over 30 times in the past 11 years, and had grown increasingly concerned about its condition.
"Basically it got to a point where I thought surely this isn't right? After all the times I have been here, surely this isn't the way it should be?" he said.
"One photo shows the concrete going into the place, and it's covered in vomit or blood or anything that has dried and hasn't been washed away.
"There was a seat with faeces on it. I told the staff about it and literally timed it, and it took over five hours for it to be cleaned up after I told them.
"I have also seen soiled adult nappies outside the front door, and the kitchen is always a mess as they don't regularly clean it up.
"Is this what we need in a time of healing? It is dark and dingy and makes you feel worse. It takes away your dignity," he said.
The former patient also complained that an onsite washing machine was out of order for over a month.
Along with cleanliness, the former patient said he was also concerned about patient overflow which caused double bunking and extra mattresses to be placed in interview rooms and family rooms.
"The problem I have mostly is when you have vulnerable people and there is so little room that they have to double bunk. You have no idea who you are in with, and they can't tell you because of the privacy act.
"I don't think it is right double bunking people when they are mentally ill. They quite often have mattresses in the psychiatrist's rooms as well because it gets so full."
The former patient said he had complained numerous times to staff, but only received anonymous apology letters from upper management.
"Nothing seems to get through," he said.
"It says in the Code of Health that you have the right to fair treatment and dignity, and that is not a dignified place. It is just too much. Nobody should be treated like that," he said.
Taranaki District Health Board service director of mental health, Wendy Langlands, said all staff took pride in the cleanliness of the Mental Health inpatient ward, Te Puna Waiora.
"We have a full compliment of cleaning staff at Taranaki DHB and matters of cleanliness are addressed as soon it is raised with them," she said.
"To clarify, the one photo of the stains at the entrance is not body fluids but Milo and coffee spills.
"The collection of dirty dishes after meals is done by our hospital orderlies on a
very regular and rostered basis.
"There are three washing machines located in the Mental Health Unit so the other two were used while the machine in question was repaired."
With regards to double bunking, Langlands said it was not their preference for patients to share rooms.
"But as part of our bed management policy and during periods of high demand and to keep people safe, we will pair patients together, after careful assessment and discussion and agreement with the patients concerned.
"We can also confirm that we do not use interview rooms as makeshift bedrooms under any circumstances."
Langlands said the inpatient ward was remodelled to reflect and support new care and recovery principles in 2016.
"The redesign created two main lounge areas, a newer and larger courtyard, a kitchen and two purpose built sensory modulation rooms. Since then other parts of the ward have also been refurbished including new carpet, a dedicated sensory room and improved kitchen facilities.
"The bedrooms in this area are getting repainted and carpeted with new furniture over the next few months. We are also installing several large nature graphics around the unit which will add colour."