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DSC demands review of deinstitutionalisation policy

DSC demands review of deinstitutionalisation policy

Continuing mental health-related tragedies on the West Coast yet again highlight the tragic consequences of the mass closure of New Zealand's safe residential facilities for those at risk, according to DSC health spokesman, David Tranter.

When the misleadingly-named "deinstitutionalisation" agenda was being obsessively enforced by administrators whose careers depend on kowtowing to politically-driven agendas which many of them knew to be seriously flawed, it was claimed that the changes were supported by "world-wide"evidence.

When I extracted this evidence after repeated requests to the then Director-General of Health, Karen Poutasi, it consisted of a small number of reports which all focused on the same handful of mental health facilities. One of these reports even came from a company whose expertise is in financial and related fields - again illustrating the fact that one can get anything "proved" if one is prepared to pay for it, Mr. Tranter said.

As for "deinstitutionalisation", the tiny, high-fenced exercise yard at Grey Hospital's mental health unit compares disgracefully with Seaview Psychiatric Hospital's (Hokitika) spacious and peaceful grounds.

It was alleged that "care in the community" would enable people to leave "institutions" and move into the community where appropriate as though this was not already happening - which it certainly was. Further, expert care was promised whereas the reality - as in Greymouth - was that totally untrained people were often appointed as caregivers.

Another deceitful tactic employed in the South Island was a video of happy community house residents which was shown to local councils including the Westland District Council to get their backing for the Seaview closure. The Seaview Hospital Action group which opposed the closure and which I was a member of later discovered that the video was of a very low-dependency Dunedin group and was not typical of the people ejected from safe havens into often risky situations, Mr. Tranter said. Most alarming of all were the Seaview [Psychiatric Hospital words omitted] patient files I saw which showed sudden, unexplained writing down of serious problems and required care levels for patients who were subsequently ejected into inappropriate situations.

This all goes to explain New Zealand's "hideously restricted suicide reporting laws" as described by former Seaview nurse Peter Neame in a recent letter to the Greymouth Star as successive governments and their bureaucratic minions attempt to cover up the tragic consequences of mental health policy.

Mr. Neame, who held senior positions in the Queensland mental health system after leaving the Coast, knows more about mental health issues than the hordes of bureaucrats including DHB ceo David Meates whose recent assurance, "they were using the latest thinking", illustrates the shallow response of DHB management when tragic mental health-related events come to their attention.

It is time for an open and honest review of the effects of closing the safe havens which once served mental health patients so well, Mr. Tranter concluded.


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