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Lake Alice Claimants Asked To Come Forward

9 May 2002

Lake Alice Claimants Asked To Come Forward In Next Two Months

Former patients at the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit who believe they were mistreated, have two months to apply for a cash award under a Government-funded scheme set up to save them costly and potentially painful court proceedings.

Last year the Government reached a settlement with a group of 95 former patients who had filed legal proceedings in relation to the treatment they had received at the Child and Adolescent Unit at Lake Alice Hospital between 1972 and 1978.

Recognising that there might be other former patients with grievances who did not want to take part in potentially painful and costly legal proceedings, the Government appointed Dr David Collins QC to act for them. Dr Collins, a medico-legal specialist, will analyse, process and act without charge for all applicants for cash awards.

At the same time, the Government appointed Sir Rodney Gallen, who allocated the individual awards for the first group of claimants, to fulfil a similar role in the new process. Another 60 former patients had so far come forward.

Today Prime Minister Helen Clark and Health Minister Annette King said that the cut-off date for the claimants is 30 June 2002. Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia first advised the availability of the confidential resolution process in October 2001.

“The appointment of Dr Collins to act for those seeking an award will ensure that applicants receive a high standard of representation," the ministers said.

"The Government wants to resolve the grievances of all those who were at the Lake Alice Child and Adolescent Unit in the 1970s. The process which has been developed ensures equitable treatment of all former patients and makes final resolution possible.

"The process is intended to avoid the pitfalls associated with litigation, such as delays and disputes about fees. It will also ensure that there will not be unnecessary legal costs coming out of publicly funded awards.”

Anyone still wishing to take part in the process should contact: The Lake Alice Claims Coordinator, Ministry of Health, PO Box 5013, Wellington, on or before June 30 2002.

For more information, contact Dionne Barton (04) 470 6851.

Background

In late September 2001 the Government reached a settlement over the legal claims of 95 former patients of the Child and Adolescent Unit of Lake Alice Hospital. The legal claims were initiated in 1997 following publicity about events at the Child and Adolescent Unit in the 1970s.

The recent settlement of the legal claims followed the current Government's decision to settle the litigation and the setting aside of $6.5 million for this purpose. The Government considered that there was a unique set of circumstances occurring at the Child and Adolescent Unit between 1972 and 1978 that meant that settlement was appropriate whatever the technical legal rights and wrongs or the state of medical practice at the time.

Under the agreed settlement process, retired High Court Judge Sir Rodney Galen was appointed to decide the allocation of the settlement fund between the individual claimants. The Prime Minister and Minister of Health also wrote personal letters of apology to all 95 claimants with whom the Government settled.

Applicants who fall within the parameters of the Government's offer to settle claims and/or make awards are those persons who were then aged 16 years and under and resided at the Lake Alice Hospital Child and Adolescent Unit between 1972 and 1978. The Child and Adolescent Unit closed in 1978 following complaints regarding inappropriate treatment of young persons, including the use of electro-convulsive therapy.

Ends

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