Probe Against Employment of Unqualified Mental Health Staff

Probing the case, the DHB has now offered to transfer the woman to another mental health unit. The District Health Board investigation found a male staff member at the unit having an "inappropriate relationship" with a 24-year-old patient and there was "serious misconduct" involved.

After disclosure of an inappropriate relationship between assistants and a female patient at Wanganui Hospital's mental health unit, The Mental Health Foundation has defended the use of unqualified health assistants.

The healthcare assistants work directly with registered nurses and help provide on-the-ground service when nurses are busy with paperwork, Deb Christensen from the Mental Health Foundation said.

The assistants, who are casual employees, are meticulously taught and go through checks-and-balances before being employed, despite no formal qualification being required of them.

The patient reported of augmented problems, saying "I thought Te Awhia was a place that I would be protected and looked after and be safe, but I wasn't”.

The Ministry of Health is now conducting a full inquiry after a news channel highlighted the case.

Christensen, however, says the allegations are not specific to mental health. The woman's parents say they tried to have her moved to another hospital, but were refused. Christensen says that is something the DHB could look into, but New Zealand does not have enough services available.

As the employee had resigned before the DHB could take any action, therefore, they have no power to hold him accountable.