Management of Change Proposal Could See Shakeup to Mental Health Treatment, Redundancies

Seven staff at Student Health could be made redundant if a proposal for a Management of Change (MoC) process is enacted in its current form.

The proposal was submitted by University of Otago’s Director of Student Health Dr Kim Maiai, and claims the changes will allow Student Health to respond more effectively to the current mental health demands of the student-body.

A Mental Health Services Review (MHSR) took place in 2016, examining the availability of mental health treatment and support to students on the Dunedin campus and informed the decision for the proposal’s submission.

“A five year increase in levels of student distress has almost become a new normal,” Maiai explained, admitting that Student Health have not been able to meet such a high demand over that period.

“There won’t be a single Health Service provider struggling to meet the demands of students.”

Maiai was keen to clarify that at this stage it is just a proposal and is “by no means definite”.

Should it be embarked upon in its current form, the proposal would see the disestablishment of six part-time counselling positions and one part-time Health Educator position, which is 5.57 full-time equivalent positions (FTE).

In their place would be established three full-time ‘Well-being Clinical Psychologists’, providing cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to “the significant number of students demanding or requiring” it, and four full-time ‘Well-being Counsellors’, who will provide relevant alcohol and drug clinical experience and expertise.

These positions would be, “advertised internally and externally, and current staff would be welcome to apply for these roles.”

It proposes retaining the four Mental Health Support Clinicians and the current Mental Health and the Well-Being Clinical Group Leader.

Staff were informed of the proposal on Tuesday 3 October, with Union organisers in attendance. A two-week consultation period began on the same day and will end on 17 October. The proposal states that “Directly affected staff will be informed in writing of the final decision” in the week commencing 23 October.

As a result of the fact, “people will lose jobs. We are approaching this sympathetically,” Maiai assured Critic.

“I am aware that processes of this nature place demands on all of us, especially where there may be a future impact on existing staffing arrangements ... I do recognise that change process are demanding on all involved, not only in terms of work, but also personal life.”

TEU Dunedin Organiser Shaun Scott told Critic that he has, “Immediate concerns for staff and students at risk of this proposal [as well as] concerns around the focus on alcohol and drug services,” because there needs to be “a broad scope of services available to students”.

Scott wanted to, “see an extension to the consultation period as this is the busiest part of the year. Students are focused on exams so we’re hoping to for it to be extended to the end of the exam period.”

Following the end of the 2016 review, Student Health implemented a number of changes, including the development of a new Mental Health Support role; implementing strong, clinical leadership for the Student Mental Health & Well-being team in order to improve delivery and coordination of student-centred mental health services; and also the renaming of ‘Student Health Counselling’ as ‘Student Mental Health & Well-being’ in order to identify “a preventative & educative responsibility as a core function of the mental health team”.

This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2017.
Posted 10:53am Sunday 8th October 2017 by Joe Higham.