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Expedite resolution of psychiatric hospital claims

"Government must act to expedite resolution of psychiatric hospital claims" says Maori Party

Tariana Turia, Health Spokesperson for the Maori Party

Friday 6 October 2006

The Maori Party has today urged that attention be given to respond to the approximately 350 people who are bringing claims against the Crown Health Financing Agency for alleged abuse in psychiatric hospitals.

“The key issue is one of justice” said Mrs Turia. “In essence, the plea of the claimants is for a fair and just process which will address their issues”.

“The very least that they can expect” said Mrs Turia, “is that the process will avoid re-traumatising them in the ways that a court hearing would”.

“As we approach Mental Health Awareness week, this case represents an excellent opportunity for the Government to be able to restore the faith of these claimants in New Zealand’s mental health system”.

“There are particular issues regarding the well-being of Maori” said Mrs Turia.

“As we understand it, at least a third of the claimants are Maori. And yet the Government has not, as far as we know, given any consideration to the special position of Maori patients, or acted in a way which acknowledges their trust in the mental health system has been betrayed”.

“We were heartened by the Government’s initiative in establishing a confidential forum for former in-patients of psychiatric hospitals, in early 2005” said Mrs Turia. “The forum provided an opportunity and a process for those who were inpatients in psychiatric hospitals before 1992 to tell their stories”.

“However, the Forum has no power to discuss compensation, to demonstrate acceptance by the Government of their responsibility; to offer an apology or any other remedial action. Because of that claimants have seen it as having no power or useful purpose to resolve their outstanding concerns over their alleged mistreatment. Indeed, I’ve heard some describe it as a ‘sick joke’”.

“Former patients have told us they believe it is grossly unfair that some of the victims of Lake Alice were apologised to and received compensation; while others who were at Porirua or other places in the South Island are told the best they can expect is a bit of group therapy”.

“The Government must not walk away from its responsibilities to these former patients and their whanau” said Mrs Turia. “The ongoing failure to establish a proper inquiry and a just settlement process is morally and politically untenable. We all deserve better than that”.

Background

- The claims are in respect of abuses allegedly inflicted on patients by staff and carers in psychiatric and psychopaedic hospitals, and by fellow patients, in institutions governed by the former Department of Health and hospital and area health boards.

- Most claims relate to the period 1960-1980.

- Nearly 200 claims have been filed in the High Court to date.

- The claims detail allegations relating to physical beatings; sexual violation; Electro-convulsive treatment, medication or solitary confinement imposed on patients as punishment; assaults by other patients; aversion therapy and other instances of alleged neglect and abuse.

- ACC benefits are denied to many claimants because the events which caused them injury occurred before the introduction of ACC in 1974.

ENDS

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