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Principal Corrections Officer Michael Rongo in the treatment room at Rimutaka Prison’s High Dependency Unit.
States Services Commissioner Iain Rennie today recognised the Department of Corrections, the Ministry of Health and the Hutt Valley District Health Board for jointly establishing the first High Dependency Unit (HDU) in New Zealand at Rimutaka Prison.
Established in 2012 in response to increasing health needs of aging prisoners, the HDU provides highly dependent prisoners with single-person rooms that resemble hospital rooms instead of the usual prison cells. The unit, which currently has 20 beds, provides a dedicated registered nurse as well as healthcare assistants who provide 24-hour care. Plans are underway for a 10-bed extension.
“This is another excellent example of organisations working together to provide better public services. It demonstrates innovative thinking and effective collaboration to address an issue,” Mr. Rennie said.
“This clearly shows that government departments simply cannot operate in silos. We need to innovate and work together to better cater to the needs of New Zealanders. This is the essence of the Better Public Services reform,” the State Services Commissioner said.
“There are around 8,400 in our prisons today. More than a thousand prisoners are 50 years or over – 110 of whom are 70 years or older,” said Bronwyn Donaldson, Director Offender Health at the Department of Corrections.
“Most of the 20 residents in the HDU are in their seventies or eighties, with serious medical conditions that mean they need help with daily activities such as showering, toileting and eating,” she continued.
The High Dependency Unit brings together health and custodial services to provide a safe and secure environment for people to age with dignity while in prison or to transition back into the community.
The Department of Corrections receives continuing support from both the Hutt Valley District Health Board to run the unit. They conduct assessments of patients with particular health needs, run education sessions for health staff and ensure they are providing services equivalent to those outside the prison. In addition, other DHBs are responsible for assessing individual prisoners' eligibility for the unit.
Media enquiries: Janryll Fernandez, SSC Communications 021 472 598
For more information see the BPS case study: High Dependency Unit (HDU), Rimutaka Prison - a first in New Zealand