Tauranga Hospital patient finds black mold at mental health seclusion room

Black mold at Tauranga Hospital’s mental health inpatient unit. Photo / Supplement

A patient has raised concerns after finding black mold in a seclusion room at Tauranga Hospital’s mental health unit.

A nurses’ union says it is “really inappropriate” for people experiencing mental illness to be exposed to anything detrimental to their physical health.

However, the hospital says the mold was “quickly addressed”, with the area being cleaned and treated. It also said some other rooms had been inspected and no more black mold had been identified.

Lisa Middleton, 48, has bipolar affective disorder one and said she had been “in and out” of the hospital’s acute inpatient mental health unit – Te Whare Maiangiangi – since 2014.

The mum of two told the Bay of Plenty Times that during a visit on November 4, she noticed black mold around the shower ceiling in her room in the unit.

On the same day, there was black mold “clearly evident” in seclusion rooms, she said.

Te Whatu Ora Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty said an area of ​​mold was identified in one of its segregation rooms.  Photo / Supplement
Te Whatu Ora Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty said an area of ​​mold was identified in one of its segregation rooms. Photo / Supplement

Middleton, who has since returned to her home in Tauranga where she works as a business adviser, was concerned the mold may affect patients’ and staff members’ breathing, and that not enough was being done to address it.

She described hospital staff as “scurrying around trying to patch it”.

“They need to fix it properly,” she said.

Mold growing in damp areas of buildings can cause health problems as it produces allergens, irritatings and sometimes poisonous substances, according to the Health Navigator website.

Te Whare Maiangiangi - Tauranga Hospital Mental Health Unit.  Photo/George Novak
Te Whare Maiangiangi – Tauranga Hospital Mental Health Unit. Photo/George Novak

New Zealand Nurses Organization mental health nurses section chairwoman Helen Garrick said people experiencing mental illness had a higher incidence of physical health issues.

“It is therefore really inappropriate for them to be exposed to anything that could be detrimental to their physical health.”

Garrick said, in her opinion, there were also psychological consequences of being exposed to what may appear to be neglectful conditions “that don’t seem to validate your importance as an individual”.

In her view: “If your environment is like that, then there is a sense that you’re not being respected”.

Te Whatu Ora Hauora a Toi Bay of Plenty mental health and addictions business leader Jen Boryer said “an area of ​​mold” was identified in one of its three segregation rooms earlier this month.

“This was quickly addressed, with the area being cleaned and treated,” she said.

“If and when an issue is identified, room refurbishment will be undertaken when rooms are vacant and there is an opportunity to replace vanity units, vinyl and paint.”

Boryer said there was no replacement needed in this case. The mold was treated and removed, and the segregation room was brought back into use.

“An inspection has been undertaken of a number of the unit’s other rooms since – it is not appropriate to undertake detailed inspections of rooms when they are occupied by patients – and no other black mold has been identified.”

Boryer said black mold had not been reported as being an issue in the rooms in the mental health unit prior to this incident.

The unit is a separate building from the main Tauranga Hospital building.

On November 22, new data revealed there was the same number of beds nationally for acute mental health patients as there were in 2017, despite nearly $2 billion being allocated for the mental health sector.

Tauranga Hospital’s acute mental health inpatient unit has 24 beds.

Boryer said business case documents for upgrading and expanding the unit had been completed and were progressing through Te Whatu Ora – Health NZ review and approvals processes. The development included a range of “safety and capacity” improvements, with a provision of four more beds.

“If the business case is approved we’ll want to progress works as soon as possible in the new year.”

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