Thursday, January 21, 2010

The despicable state of urgent psychiatric care in NZ Hospitals...

Some psychiatric patients are not getting immediate or emergency care at mental health units in public hospitals:

Peter McGeorge, Mental Health Commission, says too many cases of people contacting services and not getting help. The Government should be condemned for this despicable state of affairs because it is not new and goes back to at least the time of the previous National Party Government in the 1990's.

The Mental Health Commission says too many psychiatric patients are not getting immediate care when it is urgently needed.

A 40-year-old patient of the Henry Bennett Centre in Hamilton absconded on Tuesday. She is now charged with murdering Diane White at her home in the Hamilton suburb of Frankton. Before the attack, a neighbour had apparently phoned police and the psychiatric unit to warn them that she thought the woman was dangerous.

Commission chairman, Peter McGeorge, says the exact details of the case are unclear but he understands the staff did everything they could in the circumstances. However, he says it is unacceptable if someone concerned about the mental health of a patient cannot get hold of authorities for help.

"Too often we hear examples of people who have phoned into mental health services and have not been able to get the help they need because they don't meet the criteria or there is too much else going on. It doesn't happen in all cases, but it certainly happens in too many."

Dr McGeorge believes a call centre with specially trained triage mental health workers should be available at all times.

The Commission's website displays the details of who to contact in a situation where urgent psychiatric help is needed.

One of the main problems, in my opinion, is getting people already assessed, into hospital when emergencies arise. A Taita, Lower Hutt, youth who, incidently is my grandson, had been maniacally psychotic for months, did not meet the alleged critetia for admission into the TWA psychiatric unit at Hutt Hospital: "That he was a danger to others or himself". Actually there are two arms to this Act, the other being "whether he could look after himself". The fact he was 18 years old should have ensured his admission to hospital on the latter grouds. This seemed to be unknown to mental health professionals at the time, or was conveniently forgotten. He was eventually admitted to hospital on dubious grounds involving the police. He needed many weeks of treatment in hospital and on home leave. The plan drawn up on his discharge is that he can be returned to hospital if his longterm grandparent caregivers deem it necessary. Previously the grandparents had been arrogantly ignored by health professionals who relied on 'their' judgement alone. It wasn't until the proverbial brown stuff hit the fan, that they acted!

Patients out in the community should receive the same care and attention as those who are in hospital. The inane politically correct practice of describing psychiatric patients as 'clients' should be abolished immediately. There is absolutely no other reason other than a deliberate shortage of money given by central government to explain the tragic situation that exists in the mental health sector. Shortages of funds given to special needs students in our public schools is of a similar and embarrassing situation for central government. Countries are judged by how well its most vulnerable citizens are treated; and New Zealand does not rank very highly on that score as a developed nation.

I commend Dr Peter McGeorge for his findings and comments about patients not getting urgent treatment when needed in New Zealand. As New Zealanders we have no option but to hang our heads in shame.

Acknowledgements.© 2010 NZCity, NewsTalkZB; Kellie Petterson

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