05/08/2018
Right Minds NZ
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Bay of Plenty Mental Health Service Crisis

Bay of Plenty Mental Health and Addiction services are in turmoil. A leadership vacuum and dysfunctional teams have created an unsafe environment for staff according to Right Minds NZ sources. In February, a client of the service was arrested on suspicion of murder following the death of Arian Eva Mahu at a Tauranga Marae from neck injuries.

Our sources reveal that a recent staff forum following a review of the services, which involved over 300 hours of interviews with staff, showed that the vast majority of nurses - over 80% - described the service as either ‘very negative’ or ‘negative’.  The numbers were similar for allied health workers such as social workers and and occupational therapists. Bay of Plenty Mental Health Services have a ‘low trust, punitive work culture’ according to one slide in a presentation given to staff. This suggests extremely low staff morale in the service. The forum seemed to be attempting to galvanise staff into a cohesive and positive team, but action points were focused mainly on more workshops.

The man accused of the February murder has been assessed fit to stand trial but questions remain as to whether he was sane at the time of the attack.

Our sources suggest there is a serious leadership vacuum spanning several years which has led to the quality of the service and staff morale reducing to the current crisis point. Earlier this year Clinical Director, Dr Sue Mackersey, was placed on extended leave. It is understood from our sources that she is unlikely to return.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, Bay of Plenty DHB acknowledged that a consulting firm had been engaged towards the end of 2017 to "gain the perspectives of staff". They also acknowledged that staff “have been under significant pressure due to the growing volume and complexity of the work demands on them, along with having to work in sub-optimal accommodation and enduring difficulties in recruiting expert staff.” The DHB said they were not able to quantify the cost of the report. Clearly the cost would have been significant given the number of hours dedicated to the exercise.

The DHB also reported a new sense of "energy and positivity [sic]" in their teams.

Despite significant increases in mental health funding by successive governments over the past 15 to 20 years, DHBs are still struggling to find the formula to make mental health services work consistently well.