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CHP Calls For Secure Supervised Psychiatric Units

PRESS RELEASE

6 September 1999

Gael Donoghue
Health Spokesperson


CHRISTIAN HERITAGE PARTY CALLS FOR SECURE SUPERVISED PSYCHIATRIC UNITS

Christian Heritage Party Health Spokesperson Gael Donoghue believes that the current mental health system with its emphasis on deinstitutionalisation for psychiatric patients has gone too far, and the pertinent sections of the Privacy Act in regard to psychotic and schizophrenic patients should be revoked.

She was making these comments in light of the tragic killing of a flatmate in Auckland by a severely mentally ill patient, who subsequently killed himself. Because of the Privacy Act, no-one informed the deceased victim of the other's ill health, nor were the next of kin aware of the serious deterioration in the condition of the perpetrator in this sad case.

"There have been at least six (one resulting in multiple killings) of these tragic, pointless and preventable deaths over the past couple of years, and they seem to be due to the lack of supervised care of these patients," said Mrs Donoghue. "That the Privacy Act often makes it impossible for relatives and friends to assist is also of great concern," she added.

Because of these, and particularly the latest incident, an elderly Cambridge couple have gone public about their own schizophrenic son who has attempted to kill his father in their own home. They are unable to get help, except for a couple of weeks respite in a Rest Home, which was terminated because the staff could not cope. "It is nothing short of scandalous, that a social worker advised the couple to put him in a motel," Mrs Donoghue observed. This suggestion was rejected because he needed constant supervision. "The poor parents need support from the health system and changes to the Privacy Act, to prevent a further possible tragedy and to assist them and their son," she said.

"Treatment for psychiatric illnesses has greatly improved in the past few years. "Asylums are a thing of the past and no-one should advocate their return. However, there is clearly a need to provide secure supervised accommodation for those who pose a threat to themselves, their families and the community," Mrs Donoghue said.

"Supervised accommodation would mean that such people could go about in the community if their carers supervised their medication routinely and monitored their well-being daily. The cost to the health budget would be balanced out by the prevention of repeat tragedies, and result in more stable patients, and safer families and communities," she added.

Mrs Donoghue concluded, "The Christian Heritage Party calls for an urgent a review of the legislation covering these health and privacy issues to prevent any further such tragedies."


Contact: Mrs Gael Donoghue on (06) 347 6000 or (025) 514 980
Party Leader Graham Capill (021) 661 766

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