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Unit designed to improve level of care

Unit designed to improve level of care
The new Counties Manukau Health Acute Mental Health Unit was designed after broad consultation and extensive input from service user, staff and other stakeholder groups.

It’s a first for New Zealand reflecting a new model of care for mental health in the country. The new Counties Manukau Health Acute Mental Health Unit was designed after broad consultation and extensive input from service user, staff and other stakeholder groups, says Chester Buller, manager of capital works for Counties Manukau District Health Board.

“The aim is to provide an environment that is safe and supportive to facilitate specialist care and treatment to people experiencing an acute mental health episode,” says Chester.

Designed by Klein the unit will provide 76 inpatient beds divided into two wings. Each wing will have a 14-bed high dependency unit with a dedicated entry and a 24-bed low dependency unit with two low stimulus suites.

Each wing has direct access to shared spaces incorporating open plan areas, therapy areas, a kitchenette, lounge area and art and activity rooms.

Each wing has a clinical operations area that includes staff kitchen, utility rooms and treatment spaces. An upper storey provides office and meeting spaces for staff.

Each wing has three courtyards: one in the high dependency area and two in the low dependency areas. The dining and living spaces open out into the courtyards to facilitate easy access to natural light and gardens.

The design includes light filled corridors that wrap around the courtyards and each bedroom door opens out towards the courtyard.

This is in stark contrast to the existing building design where each bedroom opens out towards another bedroom and is less conducive to a sense of space and light, says Chester. The two wings are linked by a central ‘heart’ area where there is a large therapies courtyard.

He says that each courtyard has been designed to have its own character ranging from a reflective space in order to converse or enjoy nature to a more action space with walking tracks and basketball hoops.

The ‘heart’ area contains art and activity spaces as well as a fully functional kitchen and the area will be accessible to service users and staff from both wings.

This area connects to the front reception area where there is a mental health whare (called Nga Whetu Marama) and a whare kai.

Chester says the unit was developed in consultation with local iwi and, as a result, there are cultural elements incorporated throughout the building. There is generous use of timbers both externally and internally.

The whare can be accessed directly off the main entry plaza which, in turn, has direct access into the unit which will facilitate its use to be wide ranging from formal welcomes, admissions, therapy and meetings and events. Chester describes it as modern reflection on a traditional whare and it will be decorated with Maori carvings.

He says that
whanau will be encouraged to stay engaged with people who are admitted and bedrooms have been designed to facilitate a family member to stay over if desired so that they can participate in the healing and recovery process.

The project was started in 2014 and is expected for completion in 2019. It is being constructed by Ebert Construction. The existing building has had leaky building issues so the move to the new unit is being eagerly anticipated, says Chester.

The new unit will also be significantly larger – 76 beds as opposed to the current 52 beds. “This project is about providing world-class facilities to local people when required,” says Chester.

“The aim is to provide a safe and supportive environment where people can receive specialist input.”