Investigation into mental health facilities shows a system in disarray

The Health Minister must urgently launch an inquiry into mental health services, after serious issues with the standard of care at mental health and disability facilities around the country were revealed today, the Green Party said.

A NZ Herald investigation of more than 60 Crimes of Torture reports show repeated basic breaches of patients’ rights, such as access to fresh air, water, or meaningful interaction. It also identifies systemic, recurrent problems across all District Health Boards (DHBs), including understaffing and undertraining, poor record-keeping, and a worrying use of seclusion and restraint.

“The treatment of some mental health patients in this country is far worse than we could ever have imagined,” said Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague.

“Nobody deserves to be treated like this, let alone the most vulnerable in our society, who enter the mental health system seeking treatment, not punishment – it’s harrowing, brutal stuff.

“These reports clearly show a whole system in the midst of a slow collapse brought about by increasing demand and underfunding, with oversight massively lacking from the Government.

“I, and many others, have repeatedly asked the Minister of Health, Jonathan Coleman, to intervene, but he has so far rejected all calls for an inquiry.

“The Minister can no longer sit at his desk, patting himself on the back while he fudges his numbers and ignores the real issues. This is a real crisis, and an international disgrace.

“The reports show that seclusion is not always recorded and that seclusion-like environments are being used without being recorded as such, meaning the Minister's reassurances that use of seclusion is declining are entirely meaningless.

“These findings are the result of unannounced inspections of mental health facilities, but these practices are happening all around the country on a daily basis.

“If the Minister again refuses to help out of the fear of bad PR, I welcome to Ombudsman’s consideration of a special investigation, and I would urge the Human Rights Commission to consider doing the same,” said Mr Hague.

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