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Seaview Deinstitutionalisation

Since 1998 the Seaview Hospital Action Group has conveyed concerns about the assessment process used to place Seaview patients into the community. Those to whom these concerns have been passed include health ministers, mental health commissioners, Health & Disability Commissioner, SRHA, HFA, Coast Health Care and numerous politicians. No-one has responded in meaningful manner. Since the Seaview Group was disbanded earlier this year the matter has been taken up by the West Coast Health Coalition.

Concerns include; no independent advocacy for patients being assessed after the local advocate was dumped under Robyn Stent's closure of several advocate positions. The authorities maintained that two Seaview staff, Peter Campion and Helen Leonard, were "independent" advocates/patient representatives.

Experienced staff's views were discounted in the assessment process. Patient's needs were substantially written down to make them appear suitable for community house placement. Any staff putting forward differing views were told to keep quiet. The Seaview PSA group twice publicly stated their concern that unsuitable patients were going into the community. The outside agency, Lifelinks, who supervised assessments refused to disclose the qualifications of their employee who worked on the assessments (Vicky Mills) and the HFA said they didn't need to know those qualifications. Following repeated protests from the Seaview group it is understood that reassessments took place under Lifelinks' local rep. (Robert Miedema) but it is believed that the outcome was much the same as previously. A Christchurch advocate, Marylin Marshall, who acted for patients during Templeton deinst. visited the Coast and expressed the need for a similar role at Seaview but the HFA turned this down flat.

Since deinst. took place (approximately 54 patients placed in community houses) it has been reported to the Seaview Group that totally unqualified, un-trained, inexperienced caregivers have been employed, some without even a c.v. being supplied; known drug consumers (cannabis) have been employed as caregivers; caregivers were put into one house on opening day without any preparation of any sort; various difficulties have been experienced by caregivers with management over such matters as accessing medical care for residents. At the Richmond Street (Cobden) House problems were experienced from the outset (see Press clipping 8 May). The naked patient referred to died within a year of leaving Seaview. Staff believe her death would probably not have occurred had she been in experienced hands and despite the circumstances of her death the local coroner has been extremely evasive of my several enquiries as to why an inquest was not held, especially since on the grounds of public concern and possible benefits for future situations the Coroner's Act provide for inquests to be held. (Section 20.)

Now, after three years of warnings have been ignored by the entire mental health system, PACT have the gall to finally admit what they must have known all along - because their local manager, Paul Castlehouse, was working at Seaview during at least some of the patient assessment process.

Yet PACT manager, Cath Allen, is amongst the many who have criticised me for warning of what was happening. Mrs. Allen's attitude is further discredited by the fact that at a meeting with neighbours of one of the PACT houses (demanded by the neighbours) I heard her say that PACT don't have to tell a neighbourhood they're moving in because a motorbike gang don't have to. Now, having pretended that all was well they say, "It's been a problem right from the beginning".

According to current reports the "needs assessment and service coordination team" will take six months to do reassessments again. Why? Surely what I have several times previously suggested - comparison of patient's hospital files with their discharge assessments - would far more quickly give a clear indication of needs not met. I hold details oking after) and address the real problem - over-zealous application of a politically-driven agenda to shut down all places giving sheltered care to those unfortunate people who simply cannot cope "in the community".

Besides those named above, others who should be called to account include; SRHA manager Suzanne Win, HFA Seaview Project Manager Lorraine Milne, former Seaview manager and now manager of West Coast mental health services Hecta Williams, SRHA/HFA manager Christine Elliot, and all others who enabled patients' needs to be written down in order to place them into inadequate care. A full, independent enquiry is essential and must include guaranteed protection from employer retaliation for staff giving evidence - the shameful environment of staff intimidation created under the post - 1993 West Coast administration (including the forcing out of very experienced psychiatric nurses who didn't "toe the line") must be exposed - and effectively dealt with. Nothing less will suffice.

David Tranter Tel/fax 03 7686112

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