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Full inquiry needed to prevent repeat of Burton

Dr Lynda Scott National Associate Health Spokesperson

27 September 2001

Full inquiry needed to prevent repeat of Burton case

The report on Mark Burton out today shows there is still a long way to go to get an adequate and comprehensive mental health service for all areas in New Zealand, says National's Associate Health spokesperson Dr Lynda Scott.

The inquiry concludes that the assessment of Mark Burton's needs and risks was inadequate and did not meet the minimum standards for clinical risk assessment in mental health services.

"We can't put our heads in the sand over this. I support Trevor Burton who says the report does not go far enough and I call on the Minister of Health to conduct an inquiry, under the Public Health and Disability Act, on the risk of a similar tragedy occurring elsewhere.

"We need to be reassured that we will not fail other mental health patients by inadequately assessing their illness which opens up a risk of self-harm or harm to others. This family warned health providers that Mark was a danger.

"This review highlighted a problem in Southland but all New Zealanders need reassurance that other provincial services are not working to the same limitations and their health providers at least meet minimum standards. The only way to find out is through an inquiry.

"This case also highlights a national problem of inadequate medium-term intensive inpatient rehabilitation services, especially for those with a dual diagnosis - that is mental illness and a drug or alcohol problem.

"Before the tragedy there appeared to be nowhere in Southland Mark could have been placed long-term when his family raised concerns. Waikari Hospital in Dunedin is the one facility that could have helped, and since fears have arisen that rehabilitation beds may be slashed from 86 to 25 despite its 95% occupancy.

"It is time to look again at inpatient services, the definition of dangerous and the use of the Mental Health Compulsory Care Act," said Dr Scott.

Ends

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