28 days ago


Lianne from Glenview

Today the Labour Government, the WDHB and other stakeholders announced that a new inpatient mental health unit is to be built on the Waikato Hospital campus. Hooray it's way overdue one automatically thinks but hold on a minute ... let's not get excited too quickly here because;

It is common knowledge 'up on the hill' that Jan White of the WDHB was told, if not warned, by the planners and contractors of the multi-million dollar Waikato Hospital upgrades that took place some years ago that the WDHB was building for yesterday ... meaning that by the time the works would be finished the capacity the WDHB was trying to improve on would be lagging behind the actual needs of our community. This has proven to be true. In fact, despite millions of dollars the Waikato Hospital A&E is now turning away more people than ever before, while the WDHB has been giving away vouchers to some of those who turn up at the A&E so that they can be seen by the Angelsea Clinic free of charge. (Just ask for this ... you won't be offered it ... a friend's daughter heard another woman doing this who was standing in front of her in a queue and did the same when she reached the counter and was told that she too would have to go to Angelsea Clinic). More referrals are being refused too, and, waiting lists grow longer and longer.

Then there is also the revised A&E registration process that is entirely lacking in respect, dignity and privacy ... gone is the private little hot water cylinder sized room (at least behind a closed door) where the sick were being triaged previously. Now you stand in front of the reception counter facing the glass behind which sits someone - not a nurse - who checks your vitals right there on the spot in front of everyone else. This is where you are expected to discuss very personal health related issues with everyone waiting to be seen overhearing every word you and the person triaging you is saying. What sort of planners, I'm wondering, would it take to not include at least a few triage rooms in an A&E space serving a large and growing community. Who of us could forget too the literal song-and-dance made at the opening of the new Waikato Hospital about the "light-filled atrium" and other huge open spaces ... meanwhile the sick are now not even given a teeny-weeny space to be triaged in a respectful, dignified and private way.

Then there is the relatively new overworked and stretched way beyond capacity Surgical Assessment Unit tucked away out of sight on the 8th floor of the Menzies Building. (Patients are shifted in and out of here so quickly, and so often, that to those who are fortunate enough to stay in one bedspace for any real length of time it resembles tide in tide out/ebb and flow). Another one of those smart Board ideas is this extension of the A&E ... invented as it was in the evolving game of 'cat and mouse' with government demands on the one hand and the WDHB trying to circumnavigate how much time they must see patients in or suffer the consequences on the other hand. (BTW --- land up here and you'll likely be sent home because there is 'no room at this inn' despite how much pain you're in ... I talk from personal experience and that of a close relative. In fact, the WORST health experience I have ever encountered at Waikato Hospital took place in this noisy and cramped space, and it left me so traumatized that I have still not - months on - been able to complete my warranted and justified complaint letter).

I worry as well that 'porkies' are being told because while today's Waikato Times says that there are 53 beds at the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre, the following Ministry of Health website clearly states that there is a total of 97 beds at this facility;

While Jacinda Ardern has claimed that the new unit will be "fit for purpose" I must question this statement given the history of the WDHB building for yesterday, our rapidly growing - no actually exploding -population in Hamilton and the Waikato region, and the government not having committed to the exact number of extra beds but instead estimating that between 10 and 20 will be built. Where is the forward planning here I'm asking? And doesn't this vagueness and uncertainty tell you that the 'powers that be' - both in government and at the WDHB - have no idea what future capacity needs are likely to be, and, that they are thumb-sucking once again? If, for instance, only 10 out of a possible 20 are ultimately built, we will land up up with half of what - I believe to be an extremely niggardly conservative estimate - will actually be needed not too far into the future. Add to this the fact that the estimated opening will be in 2023 - 4 years away - and even then it is highly probable that this will be delayed to around 2025. Remember also the Farmers Building that was touted to be occupied by the end of 2017 ... where are we now ... nearing the end of 2019 and still no move-in date has been decided. WHY AREN'T OUR MEDIA DOING THEIR JOBS AND ASKING THE 'HARD' QUESTIONS ON THIS SUBJECT AND DEMANDING ANSWERS?

If it is true that the mental health unit beds demand has risen by 72% in 9 years, imagine what the demand will be in the next 9 years, let alone by the time the new mental health unit is eventually opened.

Cost is another issue of concern. The Henry RangomaujBennett Centre was completed in 1999 - a mere 20 years ago as I recall without checking the facts - at the cost of $20 million. Now there is a budget of five times that - $100 million - which will irrefutably blow out to a much larger cost by the time the build is completed. Remember here that the Farmers build went from an original cost of $7.7 million to $14.7 million to "at least $23 million" ... with all of us being completely in the dark as to what the final cost is going to end up being.

Mr Murray described the Henry Rangomau Bennett Centre as being "sub-optimal" and said this was the case on the day it opened. I fear we are going down the very same path again with this new mental health unit.

Lastly, Jacinda Adern has referred to the Henry Rangomau Bennett Centre as "outdated" (obsolete in other words). But it was - again as far as I can recall - merely 20 years ago for goodness sake! So, are we to understand then - looking into the future - that all other WDHB buildings older than 20 years will be similarly rendered "outdated" and need replacing too when this benchmark is reached with them? Who, I'm asking, is going to pay for all of this and why are the WDHB and Ministry of Health not ensuring that whatever buildings are put up are not only designed for capacity way into the future, but, are capable of remaining 'fit for purpose', current and up-to-date.

This is the sort of stuff nightmares are made of in my humble but very concerned opinion.

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