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Another Buckle tragedy just waiting to happen

12 November, 2003
Another Buckle tragedy just waiting to happen

Green MP Sue Bradford warned today of deep systemic problems in mental health services that would lead to more avoidable tragedies like the Chad Buckle case in Wellington.

Ms Bradford, the Green spokesperson for Mental Health, said she had grave concerns about the appalling conditions at some facilities, such as the Waitemata District Health Board's Taharoto Unit and urged Health Minister Annette King to take immediate action.

"The conditions at the Taharoto Unit are simply terrifying for all staff and patients concerned," said Ms Bradford. "I fear there are many Chad Buckle cases just waiting to happen.

"Nurses are at their wits end: they have had their lives threatened, staffing resources are chronically stretched, and their bosses have created a climate of fear by encouraging them to complain about each other, and not about the poor support being offered by the Waitemata DHB.

"The Waitemata DHB must take full responsibility for the terrible state of affairs that exists at Taharoto.

"However, instead of taking care of their staff and patients, the DHB appears to have indulged in a snow-job by covering up what's been happening at Taharoto. Annette King's advisor David Chaplow was sent to investigate and returned saying everything was okay - but obviously they are not," said Ms Bradford.

Ms Bradford called on the Minister to seriously question the DHB's commitment to mental health because:

* Since February 2003, 15 or more personal grievances have been lodged from the Taharoto unit;

* Staff shortages range from 11 to 15 full-time-equivalent positions each day;

* A very high staff turnover means up to 80 per cent of weekend staff are casual bureau nurses;

* No management support, including counselling services, was given to a nurse who was held hostage with a knife held to her throat on October 23. She also had to pay for her own radiology from A&E;

* On November 9, two female staff members had to deal with a fight in Intensive Care Unit because a male casual bureau nurse disappeared from the fracas;

* Management seem more concerned with not exceeding bed limits than ensuring patients in need are adequately accommodated.

"The Minister should be very concerned about the state of affairs that exists at Taharoto. This is no way to operate a mental health facility effectively and safely.

"The Government must stop reviewing the situation at the Waitemata DHB and its mental health services and start taking action for the sake of all involved," said Ms Bradford.

PSA representative Jim Ferguson, who works at the Taharoto unit, is also available for media inquiries.


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