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Title/Topic: Eating Disorders Help Hard to Find in New Zealand
Posted On: 11/9/2007
 
Wellington, New Zealand: Nov 9, 2007 (The Dominion Post) – A growing crisis in eating disorder treatment has worried parents seeking help overseas, while at least one district health board has sent patients to Sydney for treatment.
The story so far

Auckland GP Anne O’Reilly paid about $150,000 to send her 17-year-old daughter to Sweden in January for an intensive treatment programme.

She had waited eight months for a hospital appointment, while her daughter’s eating disorder got worse. “It was a nightmare for me and it was living hell for my daughter.”

Frustrated professionals working in the sector say the Health Ministry has taken too long to overhaul services, which were identified as inadequate nearly a decade ago.

The ministry issued a proposed national framework for an eating disorder service in May 2006 and a final version was due this year but has not been produced.

Patients waiting for treatment at Eating Disorder Services in Wellington face delays of between six and 12 months.

Services in New Zealand were like an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, Dr O’Reilly said.

“My daughter nearly died so many times. Now I feel that I’ve got an obligation to get better services (here).”

District health boards finance eating disorder services, but usually only for the clinical treatment of anorexia and bulimia.

Few boards pay for early intervention services, such as counselling.

Anorexia affects up to 3 per cent of young women and is considered the most deadly of all mental illnesses. Patients can die of starvation or medical problems such as organ failure.

The Mental Health Commission said in a report this year that a lack of beds, long waiting lists, lack of co-ordination between different services and an unskilled workforce had hampered national services. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have treatment facilities but there is no regional service in the central North Island.

Commission chairwoman Ruth Harrison said patients were struggling to know what to do, particularly in the early stages of illness. “We need the development of these services, it’s a really important issue.”

The Health Ministry said it hoped to have the final plan for eating disorder services out by early next year.

Deputy Director of Mental Health Jeremy Skipworth said there had been more than 40 submissions received in May this year after consultation with DHBs and eating disorder services.

A final version of the draft document was to be sent to the sector for comment today.

The new framework would not override the boards’ responsibility to deliver services, but hoped to address regional differences in accessing eating disorders services, along with gaps for Maori and Pacific Islanders, he said.

The story so far:

1998: Mental Health Commission issues its Blueprint report, which highlights shortcomings in eating disorder services.

May 2006: Health Ministry issues its draft plan ‘Future Directions for Eating Disorders Services in New Zealand’.

October 2006: Wellington’s Eating Disorder Service in Johnsonville warns it will have to close due to poor funding. The Dominion Post reports that girls as young as 11 are put into psychiatric wards as eating disorder waiting lists grow.

January 2007: Hutt Valley Health Board takes over Wellington’s services.

June 2007: Health Ministry fails to release its final plan for eating disorder services, as expected.

November 2007: Health Ministry plan still awaited. Treatment centres say waiting lists are growing and young women are sent overseas for treatment.
 

 
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