NSW’s chief psychiatrist and a panel of medical experts visited Bloomfield Hospital on Tuesday to examine the use of restraint and seclusion practises in mental health.
The visit by Dr Murray Wright is part of a state-wide review following the tragic death of Miriam Merten at Lismore Base Hospital in 2014, and the release of horrific footage showing Ms Merten wandering hospital corridors naked.
“It’s something which was disturbing for all of us to see and a complete departure from normal, clinical practise,” Dr Wright said.
Dr Wright said the review was aimed at ensuring something like Ms Merten’s case never happens again.
“We’ve got lots of capacity to deliver safe care for people and to improve their situation without resorting to restraint and seclusion.”
The review team heard from people with first hand experience of the city’s mental health services at the Ambassador Quality Inn on Tuesday.
Dr Wright said mental health could be a “challenging environment” but emphasised the review had to lead to improved safety both for patients and staff.
“We are committed to safety for all,” he said.
“It’s no help if we create a situation which places anyone else at increased risk, we will not accept any practises which increase the risk either to patients or staff.”
Dr Wright said restraint could involve “redirection, to hands on or holding of someone”.
“In some instances it can be seem like quite minor sorts of things but it actually impedes that person’s free movement and so therefore is restraint,” he said.
“It’s really important that when we look at particular instances where there’s been tragedies that we look carefully at all aspects of the care someone has had during that encounter.”
Dr Wright said the review would cover all mental health services including in-patient services like forensic patients and emergency departments.
There are 40 acute mental health beds for adults at Bloomfield Hospital.
“It’s very hard to make a comment across the whole board for the district, the figures that I can recall in relation to Western NSW [Local Health District], they are making improvements, but they’ve also got some remaining challenges to make improvements,” Dr Wright said.
Dr Wright said the review team will deliver their report by December.