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Wide concerns about patients in police cells

Dr Lynda Scott National Health Spokesperson

25 June 2003

Govt ignores wide concerns about patients in police cells

The Government is allowing mental health patients to be treated like prisoners instead of sticking to its promise to tackle the mental health crisis a year ago, says National Health Spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott.

"Waitemata District Health Board is being forced to have mental health patients illegally detained in police cells because of an acute bed shortage.

"But the Minister of Health has no concerns about these patients being held in cells for up to three days, despite her own directive that they shouldn't be in cells for longer than six hours.

"Today police are saying they're stopping holding these patients because of the risks in keeping them and others safe, and the health board admits keeping the patients in prison is damaging to their health.

"From her evasive response in Parliament today, the Minister has no concerns about who will look after these vulnerable patients. "People are sick of the promises of extra funding and beds when nothing has changed in 15 months since this problem first occurred. Patients have still been regularly held in cells where they are at risk of harming themselves or others.

"The same Minister would not even stay at last week's health select committee to answer questions on the mental health crisis. It's her job to adequately resource mental health, instead of avoiding the issue and passing the buck. "Potentially dangerous patients who are discharged too early due to the lack of beds can cause harm to others. This is an accident waiting to happen, but today in Parliament the Minister wouldn't take responsibility for this," Dr Scott said. Ends

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