We’re still waiting

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Four hundred and forty-two.

That’s how many days it’s been since the Southern District Health Board announced it was boosting Queenstown’s mental health provision with an after-hours service.

Yet that service is yet to get off the ground.

The delay has sparked a frustrated response from mayor Jim Boult, who’s worried mental health issues in the resort will only get worse as the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak continues.

“The tourism industry’s going to take a hit, and whether it’s your own business or you’re a staff member worried about your job, it adds another level.”

SDHB told Mountain Scene in November 2018 it was going to provide an after-hours mental health service in the Wakatipu between midnight and 8.30am.

Currently, the Southland-based mental health emergency team covers the area between those hours.

DHB mental health general manager Louise Travers says staffing issues are behind the failure to start the service.

Last year, the DHB had a full complement of staff, which would have allowed for an after-hours roster.

“Unfortunately, soon after, the service experienced some resignations which have affected progressing the overnight availability of a more local on-call service,” Travers says.
“When we have a full complement of staff, we will discuss and plan with them the implementation of a locally-delivered, overnight, on-call service for emergency mental health-related presentations.”

Between November 2018 and December 2019, Queenstown Lakes cops responded to 2011 mental health and attempted/threatened suicide calls. Of those, 446 happened between midnight and 9am.

Boult told Scene last year he felt the DHB was letting Queenstown down, and this week he says that position hasn’t changed.

“It’s disappointing.”

Queenstown’s council was in the process of conducting another wellbeing survey of residents.

Boult says once the results are through, he’ll be seeking a meeting with the health board to discuss issues facing Queenstowners, including mental health.

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker is calling on Health Minister David Clark to ask some tough questions of the health board.

“The health minister needs to explain why the service isn’t up and running as promised.”

A spokesman for Clark says it’s an operational matter for the health board, and the minister can’t comment.

ed@scene.co.nz