Support better protection of the vulnerable in our care facilities.
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Who are amongst our most vulnerable? They are the elderly, the disabled, and those afflicted with mental health conditions. The common denominator between these groups is that they have a legally – sanctioned right to safe and accountable care via specialist service providers. Those with mental health problems, for example, have a right to specialist mental health care provided by District Health Boards. (DHBs)
Of those with mental illness, their illness does not define them or their lifepotential. However, it is for this small facet of their being that they are entrusted into the care of specialist service providers to receive expert assessment and treatment from suitably qualified health professionals. Yet people are dying while under the auspices of these providers.
This death was not an aberrant one-off failure on behalf of the provider DHB but is representative of a litany of similar catastrophic outcomes within the mental health sphere.
This is by no means an exhaustive account of the deaths that have occurred within DHB specialist mental health services over the last 5 years, but is indicative of an alarming on-going trend.
How can this possibly happen?
Within their enabling statute, the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000, DHB’s have a legislatively-driven mandate to achieve for New Zealanders:
the improvement, promotion, and protection of their health
the best care or support for those in need of services.
The New Zealand Health and Disability Services Standards offer a further veneer of the assurance of safety. The Core Standards include this criterion for Standard 1.3.7:
Consumers are kept safe and are not subjected to, or at risk of abuse and or/neglect.
An audit of compliance is required to determine a service’s level of attainment. But perhaps the best litmus test of service delivery is the action taken by service providers when things go wrong. Despite the legislation, the invariable ‘Open Disclosure’ policies, and the organisational ‘Mission Statements’; basic decency is easily blindsided when tragedy strikes.
How many have died? It’s difficult to say. In 2015 I wrote to the Ministry of Health and requested the following information under the Official Information Act;
the number of patients who have experienced sudden unexpected death while undergoing treatment within an inpatient facility over the last 5 years (on a per annum basis) with a differentiation between sectioned and voluntary patients
The Ministry of Health could not provide this information The request, was subsequently referred on to the Ministry of Justice, Coronial Services, and Statistics NZ. No one kept records of this data. However, the Ministry of Police could provide statistical data that there has been a steady increase in the number of police call-outs to mental-health related incidents over the last 5 years.
It seems a telling indictment on us as a nation that the Reserve Bank can tell us on a daily basis what is happening to the New Zealand dollar. The Dow Jones Index and NZX 50 can show the bigger picture. Yet those who have a pivotal role in overseeing the rights of our most vulnerable are unable to procure even the most basic of information to facilitate recognising and alleviating this devastating trend.
So, I’m asking for your support to help change this. Ongoing systemic failings or improved service delivery? I see it as a choice. Either: to maintain the current status quo and the inevitable retrospective regrets when tragedy strikes, or, to have a paradigm shift and explore new options that incorporate proactive and prevention-based measures into the service delivery sphere. Please say “Yes” to the paradigm shift. If given the opportunity, I would like to make a submission to a Select Committee offering positive and practical suggestions; no doubt others would, too.
Please support this petition and help improve the outlook for our most vulnerable. The full petition will read:
That the House reviews the efficacy of regulatory bodies in protecting the rights of at-risk service recipients and note that x number of people have signed an online petition supporting better protection of the vulnerable in our care facilities.
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