Hillmorton Hospital patient says 'disgusting' conditions at Christchurch mental health facility 'wouldn't be permissible in a zoo'

The patient complained of rodents, ants, graffiti and a lack of running water at Hillmorton Hospital.
The patient complained of rodents, ants, graffiti and a lack of running water at Hillmorton Hospital. Photo credit: Newshub / Supplied

A mental health patient has spoken out about the "disgusting" conditions at Christchurch's Hillmorton Hospital - saying they wouldn't be acceptable at a zoo, let alone a mental health facility.

The patient, who asked to remain anonymous, said since checking into the facility she's experienced rodents, ants, graffiti and general filthy conditions - some of which was evidenced in photos and videos provided to Newshub.

She told Newshub while she "wouldn't kennel a dog" at Hillmorton and is desperate to leave, she's trapped there as she's been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

The patient said it fails as a mental health hospital as there's a complete lack of a therapeutic environment, and believes major improvements are needed if it's to function as intended.

"This wouldn't be permissible in a zoo, the SPCA would be all over it - and yet it's permissible in a hospital. It's disgusting," she said.

The patient also complained of dirty bathrooms and "appalling" food - as well as a lack of running water in the only female bathroom on her ward, an issue she claimed had persisted for more than two weeks.

"They won't put hand sanitiser [in the female bathroom] in case somebody drinks it," she said of the issue. "There is the option to use the men's bathroom, but some of the male patients get quite aggressive when they find a female in the bathroom, so a lot of the females are too scared to use it."

"There are cases of COVID in a different part of the ward, so the fact that people can't wash their hands is just despicable."

Greg Hamilton, general manager of specialist mental health services at Canterbury DHB, said staff were only notified of the running water issue on Wednesday, and the broken tap was fixed within four hours of them being told.

He also said graffiti and damage is quickly addressed by staff and that there had been no reports about rodents or ants on the unit, with the maintenance department having a pest control schedule to address these issues.

The patient said she'd complained about the graffiti in her ward.
The patient said she'd complained about the graffiti in her ward. Photo credit: Supplied

Hamilton added that Canterbury DHB works closely with WellFood to provide "well-balanced, healthy and nutritious meals" for patients and that the food provided by kitchen services is "often complimented".

"We are disappointed to hear of the complaint about the food and we encourage tangata whaiora to let us know of their concerns at the time."

He did, however, acknowledge the current facilities for adult acute inpatients are "not ideal" and that there is "very high wear and tear on the buildings".

Criticism of the conditions at Hillmorton Hospital is not new. Canterbury DHB is currently working through plans with the Ministry of Health for fit-for-purpose facilities to replace the current building, with plans focusing on creating a "therapeutic environment".

However he says until then, staff "take pride in ensuring our facilities are well maintained and regularly cleaned to provide the best possible environment for tangata whaiora within the constraints of the facilities".

"The nursing staff ensure that new admissions are shown to a clean room. When nursing staff make up the bedrooms after a consumer is discharged they report any damage which will be rectified," Hamilton said.

"At times we have to use a room which has some damage due to the high turnover of consumers, however this is a rare occurrence. We will put a room out of action when there is more severe damage.

"Our cleaning team work extremely hard to keep the units clean. The entire unit is cleaned daily and in addition cleaning staff will return and clean areas again during the day if additional work is required."

Hamilton says the Hillmorton Hospital is "on a journey" that will see many of its buildings and facilities improved, modernised and transformed as part of a master plan for the campus.

"The campus is our centre for Specialist Mental Health Services in the region. The aim is to create an environment that makes it easier to deliver contemporary mental health care and support people’s treatment and recovery."

The current project on site will see two new clinical buildings constructed - a long-term and intensive rehabilitation unit and a facility that will house child adolescent and family, eating disorders and mothers and babies inpatient services and community outpatient services for the latter two.

"There will also be an Energy Centre building that will utilise ground source heat pumps. This project is due to be completed in early 2023. The new wing of the Whaikaha unit (a secure unit for people with neurodiversity) was completed last year.

"Development is also underway for a modern, fit-for-purpose community outpatient facility for a child and youth mental health supported by Māia Health Foundation fundraising."

Hamilton says Canterbury DHB is committed to bringing its long-term master plan for mental health facilities to life.