Opened: August 1950
Closed: October 1999
Located: No.7 Road, Lake Alice, Rangitikei, New Zealand.
Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital Rangitikei New Zealand,
Opened In August 1950.
Named after the Lake which shares the same name, the second lake to the south of the estate. Built as a psychiatric hospital the complex which consists of 56 Acres with 10 two story 11 bed villas, fire station, 2 swimming pools, Maximum secure villa, staff quarters, library, community hall, chapel, morgue and 4 two storied 50 bed villas along with plenty garaging and workshop
s, administration building, glass houses/gardens, central dinning, rugby and cricket patch’s.
The hospital slowly shut down during the mid 1990's as apart of merging patients back into the community as institution's where seen as a negative look upon the mental health sector at that time although they had talked about shutting Lake Alice and many of the other institutions around New Zealand down for a few years priors.
Catering for all sort of mental illnesses and people from the young to criminally insane to geriatric. While the there is more history then will ever be known the most unbelievable accusations to surface was the Child and Adolescent unit abuse. During 1972-77 mistreatment went on towards the adolescent patients. Abuse claims consisted of unmodified ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Where this would cause the person to pass out, one patient described the feeling as a sledge hammer hitting the side of his head. Mistreatment also went on with the ECT machine where patients would be instructed to shock fellow patients sometimes on there genitals and other body parts. ECT was not just used on the the Adolescent unit patients and it did not stop when the unit shut down in the late 70's.
Painful injections of paraldehyde where also a common practice. paraldehyde is a anti-epileptic. used to treat certain convulsive disorders It also has been used in the treatment of alcoholism and in the treatment of nervous and mental conditions to calm or relax patients who are nervous or tense and to produce sleep. However, paraldehyde has generally been replaced by safer and more effective medicines for the treatment of alcoholism and in the treatment of nervous and mental conditions. The main reason this drug was used was for sedation, the drug was very painful and could leave the patient unable to walk for hours. The medicine may either be given as an injection into the muscle or through the anus.
There has been many claims of sexual abuse through out the duration that the hospital was opened this was one of the accusations made during the duration the adolescent unit was open, many patients claimed they were sexually abused by other patients (some from other wards) and nurses.
After the closure in 1999 the hospital lay abandoned for 10 years and was on sold twice. Past patients sued the government in 2001 for abuse such as physical and sexual as well as Electric shock therapy that was unmodified. Over 150 patients received ex Gratia payments as at the time they were under the states care and the treatments used where found inhumane. The government paid out a sum of over $10 million to the claimants and the lawyer Grant Cameron and asst when the government struck a deal with the lawyer to settle out of court.
Lake Alice's history spans from the Whistle blowing incident that changed NZ work place policy's when in the 1980's a Staff member of the Maximum Security unit spoke out about the poor treatment and abuse that was going on towards patients in the unit. This staff members father was a doctor who also worked at Lake Alice and was an important figure during his employment.
The hospital doors where officially shut in October 1999. Now days the hospital stands abandoned most of the buildings are very run down & trashed from either outsiders or cattle,sheep which roam the land.
July 2006 the 56 acres & buildings was sold to developer's. Who had plans to develop the estate into housing and a reort while subdividing surrounding land .
December 2008, the property was been sold for a second time and the buildings are to be demolished and land used for farming. See newspaper articles for full details
January 2010, The old Administration block, Caretakers house, Water Tower plus 2 Ha of land are on the market for tender. See newspaper articles. No doubt with time the rest of the remaining buildings (including Maximum) will be demolished, there is rumors the Villas may breath life into them once again by being done up as rental properties.
Layout plan proposing of the hospital showed that male patient’s accommodation was to occupy the southern half and female patients the northern half, which each half anticipated. 20 two storied 11 bed villas, 4 two storied 50 bed villas, 1 single story 60 bed villa for geriatric patients, giving a total of 50 villas of various types for 960 patients.
Six occupational therapy buildings were to be placed around the western circumference, with three serving the female patients and three serving the male patients.
A recreational area was intended for the centre of the complex consisting of six football and cricket fields, four tennis courts a swimming pool, bowling green and croquet lawn.
Featured on the eastern part of the plan was an administration building, a water tower and purification plant, nurses home for 100 nurses, a general hospital, dental block, service buildings (such as bulk store, bakery, butchery, laundry, fuel pump, boiler house), workshops, fire station and morgue. Also to be included was a hairdresser a 40 roomed hostel for male staff, a recreation hall containing a library and canteen as well as 2 electricity sub-stations.
The attached farm land and gardens was to provide employment and income plus meat and vegetables for Lake Alice and other hospitals.
This ambitious plan was apparently discarded following the change in government after the war. It is of interest to note that the present water supply revealed by the presence of the fire hydrants around the grounds and the sewage system were built to service this plan.
The hospital officially opened August 1950.
A total of 21 patients were admitted the first day which followed by a further 27 on September 6th. There were no more intakes until following month when on October 1 another 3 arrived bringing the total number at Lake Alice for 1950 to 51.
The type of patients brought to the hospital was expected to be the long stay middle aged chronic who did not get visitors. They would be capable of working and caring for themselves and at the same time well behaved. As the patient population increased so were the villas. Villa 8 had been the first villa occupied, but as transfers came in patients were dispersed to other villas, gradually opening them up until the entire hospital with the exception of Villa 7 and 10 were in use for patient accommodation. Villa 7 was used as a store, office, workshop and recreation centre.
The first floor the north east dormitory was used as a picture theater and chapel, the centre dormitory as a billiard room. The south west dormitory was the workshop. Villa 10 was used to provide living quarters and catering facilities for single male staff as well as housing the head nurses office which was situated in charges office. The patients sick bay was located in the billiard room in Villa 8 and provided six beds.
During this early period both staff and patient were involved in improving the grounds. Developing the hospital from a desolate paddock where 12 villas stood stark, to a place with a homely atmosphere and neatly laid out lawns and gardens. Patients and staff managed between them with staff supervising, and patients doing there own cooking to provide for themselves. Patients were also employed on the farm as laborers in cutting firewood for the hospital and clearing new farm land for production.
Staff members were expected to be competent in many fields and in fact became ‘jacks of all trades’ working side by side with patients on a relatively equal basis.
Villa 5 and 19 were completed and opened in August 1958. They were for the use of physically sick and geriatric patients, the sick bay was consequently moved from Villa 8 to Villa 5.
It was not until April 1963 that the policies of discharging the more capable long term patients into the community, setting up out patients clinics and introducing various aspects of treatment and rehabilitation were introduced.
22/12/1937, Land purchased for future Mental Hospital.
26/12/1963, New Community Hall opens
23/2/1968, Hospital remains under control of the Mental Health division of Dept of Health
18/11/1969, Staff will refuse to work if community nurses are employed.
18/6/1970, Government decides to build disturbed patients villa.
19/8/1970, The great enigma of Lake Alice security unit
22/3/1972, Hospital to remain under State Control on April 1 when all other Mental Hospitals come under Board control.
2/10/1972, Control with comfort is aim of new residential villa.
8/9/1975, Hospital celebrates 25th anniversary next weekend.
Lake Alice on Television:
2001 > The waiting place (small budget film made for film fest. Half of movie see's one of the larger Villa's used while so was one of the old staff houses)
2005 > TVNZ's Sunday programme gain permission to film with 3 ex patients
2006 > Private filming was done for an Wellington film company (footage was not released publicly)
2007> Filming done by the Light House Trust with ex staff members & patients
Please note those opinions expressed on Lakealicehospital.com are not those of the Ministry of Health New Zealand