Bay of Plenty District Health Board
Right Minds NZ
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Pressure mounts on under siege mental health service in Bay of Plenty

Pressure is mounting on the Bay of Plenty (BOP) District Health Board (DHB) as its under siege mental health service comes under increasing scrutiny. In the latest twist, it can be revealed that the BOP DHB has been the subject of several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests relating to the service, the report commissioned from RAP Consulting, and the performance of its former Clinical Director, Sue Mackersey. The DHB has provided very limited information to the press and we understand the Ombudsman is now involved in dealing with a complaint from a major newspaper regarding the lack of transparency from the DHB in response to their FOIA request. A few months ago Right Minds made a FOIA request to BOP DHB and was only given limited information, with the contents of the RAP Consulting report being withheld.  It appears a major mainstream paper was having similar difficulties and has taken the matter further. 

Earlier this year, a client of the mental health service killed Ariana Mahu at Huria Marae in Tauranga. At the High Court in Rotorua in August the killer, Tamati Mason was found to be insane at the time of the attack. The judge agreed with the two psychiatrists who had examined Mason that he was suffering from schizophrenia. He was reported to have been actively hallucinating and deluded at the time of the killing.

This tragic incident happened at a time when the BOP mental health service was clearly at a low ebb. Right Minds sources had revealed that the service was dysfunctional and that many senior and junior staff had lost confidence in the leadership. Towards the end of 2017 the DHB had commissioned the report from RAP consulting on the state of the service. This obviously raised questions and concerns about the care and treatment of Mr Mason and whether, if the mental health service had been functioning properly, this killing could have been prevented.

Dr Mackersey was then, it appeared, on ‘gardening leave’/suspension for several months before leaving the DHB’s employ and taking up a position in Australia with the Royal College of Australian and New Zealand Psychiatrists as an elected Director. A request from Right Minds made to the Board of RANZCP at the end of September for comment on its confidence in Dr Mackersey to hold her position with them in light of the Bay of Plenty events generated no response.

Right Minds sources suggest that under Dr Mackersey’s leadership there were unsatisfactory practises in place with regard to Psychiatrist coverage across two sites in Rotorua and Tauranga. The information from the staff workshops following the RAP Consulting report clearly indicate that there were major problems in the service and that many staff were desperately unhappy. The DHB Board’s reluctance to release the information requested in multiple FOIA requests can only fuel speculation that the worrisome state of the mental health service in the past few years contributed to the tragic events which unfolded in February. Only a frank and open disclosure of information, however damning, will provide the answers the public is looking for and is entitled to.