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Nelson Cathedral Dean Reverend Mike Hawke with Nikau House members and supporters at a protest in June when the community mental health service was threatened with closure.
Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith has called for ministerial intervention as fears mount over the future of Nelson community mental health service Nikau House.
“I specifically seek a freeze on any further changes at Nikau House until Parliament is resumed and the Nikau House petition is heard by the Health Select Committee and resolved,” Smith says in a letter to Health Minister Chris Hipkins, which was sent on Tuesday.
The 4500-signature petition was presented to Parliament on July 21, after Nelson Marlborough Health (NMH) in June announced a proposal to close the service.
There was elation in August when it was announced Nikau House would stay open with some changes including a new name: Nikau Hauora Hub.
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However, that happiness was short-lived as word spread of the planned redeployment of some staff members and uncertainty grew over whether all services would remain.
Smith’s letter comes after some Nikau House members and their families last week raised fears the service may survive in name only.
Nelson Labour candidate Rachel Boyack said she was concerned to read about those fears, adding that she had also been contacted directly by some clients and their families.
Boyack said she planned to meet with clients and their whānau on Thursday and would seek a meeting with the district health board.
Staff redeployment was one of the major concerns.
Nelson woman Tina Lane, who credits Nikau House with being the first mental health service to nurture her back to wellbeing, said the matter was the only item discussed at an in-house meeting on Monday.
“The clients are extremely upset,” Lane said.
They felt “disenchanted, worried and stressed”.
“Many people put a lot of energy into saving this,” Lane said. “It should be used as a prototype throughout the country.”
MARTIN DE RUYTER
Daniel Timms, a Nikau House member, was a strong advocate for the service.
Members thought Nikau House had been “saved as they knew it”. When they were told no staff members would lose their jobs “we thought everyone would stay, but almost half of them are being redeployed”, she said.
NMH general manager of mental health Jane Kinsey last week did not directly answer a question about how many Nikau House staff were staying and whether they would remain in the same roles.
However, on Tuesday she said the majority – five of the nine staff members – would stay in similar roles. Those who were being redeployed would likely still have “quite a lot to do with Nikau Hauora Hub”.
More people were going to join the team including an employment specialist, due to start within the next two to three weeks and about five Māori mental health roles, Kinsey said.
In the meantime, Nikau was still open “supporting people as we used to”, as much as possible under the Covid-19 alert level 2 restrictions.
NMH would be looking for clients and whānau to participate in planned working groups to develop the key elements of the future hub service model.
Kinsey said she could understand why some members were feeling anxious. However, the team was “absolutely focused” on supporting people. Nikau was staying open and the services were being strengthened.
Hipkins said he would respond to Smith’s letter in due course “and directly to him in the first instance”.
He was concerned about ensuring New Zealanders requiring assistance with mental health and addiction issues were “able to access services when and where they need them”.
“DHBs including Nelson Marlborough DHB are best placed to make decisions about how to provide these services most effectively to their local populations.”
However, it was important they were properly funded to deliver those services, “and that has not always been the case over the last decade”.
He said the Labour Government had substantially increased the resources available for these services, through better funding of DHBs and through a $1.9 billion mental health and addiction package.