Hope for eating disorder patients
Help could be on the way for Aucklanders with eating disorders.
There are no inpatient facilities within the Auckland region, unlike Wellington and Canterbury which have small units that can house patients for long-term treatment.
But that may change, with a proposal for a regional service provided by the Auckland District Health Board, with funding from Waitemata and Counties-Manukau being considered by the Health Ministry.
In the meantime, some patients are sent to Sydney for 24-hour care over several months, at a cost of about $67,000.
Eating Disorder Association of New Zealand spokesman Peter Jeffries says while the treatment in Sydney is “fantastic” it’s not an ideal situation for families.
“It splits the family up. Somebody has to go over and support them,” he says.
ADHB eating disorder services manager Adele Wakeham says few patients are sent to Sydney because it doesn’t suit all families.
Mr Jeffries, who has a family member with an eating disorder, says day-stay treatment at the Greenlane Clinical Centre is effective.
But he thinks it’s unac- ceptable that some patients have to wait several months to be seen.
“Every week that passes that they’re not getting the service, they go downhill.”
Ms Wakeham says there are two categories of treatment at the clinic, which treated 244 people during the 2007/8 financial year.
One programme cares for patients with milder eating disorders and has no waiting list.
Many of these cases involve bulimia, which is often treated with group therapy.
The more intensive programme mainly treats anorexic teenagers and there is a longer wait.
“Waiting lists depend on case loads. Managing very intensive cases takes up resources,” Ms Wakeham says.
She would like to see a fully resourced day programme and separate residential care for adolescents and adults.
Currently she has 18.8 fulltime equivalent staff.
The mental health blueprint released by the Mental Health Commission in 1998 said 34 fulltime staff would be ideal.
But because funding includes money from the Waitemata and Counties Manukau health boards it is more complex.
“It’s always more difficult when trying to get consensus from several organisa- tions rather than one,” Ms Wakeham says.
Patients with severe eating disorders can face a range of treatments including therapy, meal supervision and sessions with a nutritionist.
ADHB chairman Pat Snedden told the eating disorder association at the board’s June meeting that they are committed to increasing services but other boards need to contribute.
Waitemata health board communications manager Bryony Hilless says improving eating disorders services could include an inpatient facility.
Counties Manukau board acting chief funding and planning officer Sam Cliffe says they are keen to see inpatient services for young people introduced.
The New Zealand Mental Health Survey published in 2006 shows 1.7 percent of people 16 years and over will suffer from anorexia or bulimia at some point.
Not enough: Eating Disorder Association of New Zealand spokesman Peter Jeffries wants local district health boards to increase services and open an inpatient centre to help fight the disease.