Palmerston North Hospital has apologized to a man in his 30s who was illegally placed in solitary confinement after attending ED.
Warning: This story is about self-harm and suicide.
A man who went to the Palmerston North emergency department because he needed mental health care was unlawfully placed in solitary confinement for 19 hours after a series of “serious administrative errors,” according to a report from the Health and Disability Commissioner.
The independent patient watchdog has questioned the competence of the psychologist who assessed the man and recommended that the Medical Board intervene.
The man, then in his 30s, had a history of depression, anxiety and suicide risk and went to his GP in October 2017 and said his medication had stopped working.
A treatment plan was drawn up, but was mistakenly sent to his former GP, leaving the patient frustrated, confused and lacking support, so he stopped taking his medication when he ran out. His mood deteriorated and he became angrier and more focused on self-harm in the months that followed, Deputy Commissioner Deborah James said in her report.
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On April 30, 2018, the man went to the ER at Palmerston North Hospital, struggling with suicidal thoughts. He told the commissioner it was a “last resort after a cold turkey”.
“Nothing happened in October. Long strings of things not happening as they should,” the patient said.
A psychiatrist assessed the man and arranged for him to be admitted to the high needs unit and held as a patient for further evaluation and treatment.
But while paperwork was being completed to place him under the Mental Health Act, he attempted to leave and was stopped and held in solitary confinement for 19 hours.
But because the paperwork was never completed, he was not legally covered by the mental health law and should never have been in solitary confinement.
James said the lack of communication and inadequate handovers that led to his illegal seclusion violated two rights of the code to protect patients.
Health Minister Andrew Little said in Christchurch that the budget included a $100 million investment in mental health over four years. (First published May 17, 2022)
“She did not adequately transfer care or follow the legal requirements of the Mental Health Act.”
James advised Te Whatu Ora – now in charge of Palmerston North Hospital – and the psychiatrist to issue written apologies to the man and his family and provide more training to staff involved in caring for the man.
In response, Te Whatu Ora – MidCentral’s clinical director for mental health and addiction, Dr. Alison Masters, accepted the report’s findings and “apologised unreservedly to the patient for the level of care they received.”
The hospital had sent a letter of apology to the patient and his family.
“We will continue to develop the recommendations in the report along with the actions in our internal report. We will report to the HDC on the progress we are making.”
Patient care and safety “remain of paramount importance at Te Whatu Ora MidCentral,” Masters said.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
- 1737, need to talk? – Call or text 1737 for free to talk to a trained counselor
- Depression.org.nz – 0800 111 757 or text 4202
- Lifeline – 0800 543 354
- Suicide crisis helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 SUPPORT)
- Children’s line – 0800 54 37 54 for persons up to the age of 18. Open 24/7.
- Youth line – 0800 376 633, free text 234, email email@example.com, or find online chat and other support options here.
- National Support Trust – 0800 787 254
- Samaritans – 0800 726 666
- What is – 0800 942 8787 (for children aged 5 to 18). Telephone assistance available Monday through Friday from 12:00 PM to 11:00 PM and on weekends from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM. Online chat is available daily from 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
- thelowdown.co.nz – Web chat, email chat or free text 5626
- Fear New Zealand – 0800 FEAR (0800 269 4389)
- Support for families with mental illness – 0800 732 825.
If it’s an emergency click here to find the number of your local crisis assessment team. In a life-threatening situation, call 111.