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Tragedy On The Way -- Heather Roy

More and more psychiatric patients are slipping through the cracks of our fragmented mental health system - and it will not be long until one reappears, having committed a horrendous crime, ACT New Zealand Health Spokesman Heather Roy said today.

"The Government's misguided, politically correct move toward community care for the mentally ill - some of whom require up to three visits a day - is underlined by shortages in doctors, psychiatric and forensic beds," Mrs Roy said.

"Patients are already slipping through the cracks, which more closely resemble chasms. Psychiatric patients are being left to languish in police cells, waiting for beds to become available. How does that affect a vulnerable patient in need of treatment?

"Most of the mentally ill pose little threat to the community, with the majority being no more a risk than any sane person. These patients simply require treatment which, thanks to Labour's lack of forward thinking, they often cannot receive.

"It is this sort of situation which sets the scene for our next Stephen Anderson, Leslie Parr or David Gates. Doctor shortages have, reportedly, already jeopardised one of Auckland's acute adult psychiatric units.

"When will Labour see that it is putting psychiatric patients at risk and, with them, the wider community? We prepare our health professionals for export and, while other countries benefit, we suffer.

"Health Minister Annette King can no longer pretend to ignore this serious problem, neither can she continue to devolve responsibility. Until she realises that the mentally ill are as important as other patients - indeed, they are often more vulnerable - we will continue down the path to mental health tragedy.

It is time for Ms King to actually manage her portfolio, lest blame for the next mental health tragedy be laid at her feet," Mrs Roy said.

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