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Canberra Hospital Fails Duty of Care – Again

By dazzab - 27 July 2011 47

As much as I hate trial by media once again I have to report an appalling case of Canberra Hospital dropping the ball when it comes to providing mental health services.

A young family member recently overdosed on illicit drugs in a Canberra nightclub and was taken to hospital by ambulance. The next morning he attempted to discharge himself in spite of clearly being quite ill and having a documented long history of mental illness. So of course the inevitable happens and he ends up getting only as far as Civic before having a psychotic episode putting himself and the public in danger. Thank goodness no one was hurt but I wonder if ACT Health would accept liability had you or your family been involved in this, which could have easily been the case.

I also would like to report how well the ACT Police handled this situation. It really shows how much they have stepped up to the challenge of dealing with these types of situations and I am very grateful to them for keeping my relative and the public safe in very challenging circumstances. I do think it’s a shame that they have to do ACT Health’s job for them and it’s obvious that even they are not happy about this.

The last straw in this incident was my conversation with the now infamous Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team. Remember them? The team that services suicidal people who then walk out and kill themselves?

I wish that I had recorded the conversation to play back here and highly recommend that people start doing this. Before attending the Police station to see my relative I called them to ask why he had been released and if I could return him to the hospital given his history and that he clearly was quite ill. I was trying to be proactive and prevent further incidences.

The response was that an evaluation had been done months earlier on this individual, and that if I returned to the hospital it would be a minimum of eight hours sitting in the emergency room before we would be seen. This was followed by the standard lecture on how triage works. Thankfully the ACT Government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on television ads to explain why they can’t provide services at the hospital unless you’ve had an arm ripped off or someone as stupid as me wouldn’t understand that.

I would like to explain to the Government that providing emergency services DOES NOT preclude also providing quick professional services to those in great pain or need who haven’t had their arm ripped off. If they would stop spending so much time and money telling us why they can’t do this they might actually be able to hire more staff and some people who know how to provide services. I for one, am very tired of being treated in a condescending manner by people who simply can’t rise to the challenge.

My relative is now recovering and dealing with the consequences of his actions. Thanks to the Police and family, this is one time where you won’t read about it on the front page of the Canberra Times.

What’s Your opinion?


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47 Responses to
Canberra Hospital Fails Duty of Care – Again
1
rescuedg 12:41 pm
27 Jul 11
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That sounds like a pretty terrible experience. However, I’d be clear to separate Canberra Hospital from Mental Health ACT, 2 different entities. Mental Health is dramatically understaffed in the ACT and across Australia. With Mental Health Nurses overloaded and put in unsafe situations almost daily due to the lack of staff (e.g. having to do home visits to psychotic patients alone) they often have no capacity to take on additional patients.

What I found really disgusting was when you look at the budget for ACT Health, during all of the talk of improving Mental Health services, Mental Health significantly underspent its budget.

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2
colourful sydney rac 1:51 pm
27 Jul 11
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That sounds like a terrible experience, however, I am not sure what the hospital could have done, are you suggesting that they could have/should have detained him against his will?

I imagine this would be quite difficult given he presented to hospital on the basis of a drug overdose rather than for a mental health issue.

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3
timeeh 2:25 pm
27 Jul 11
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Mental health (at least in the ACT) is absolutly appauling… close family member has “issues” and i have spent many hours in emergency after certain things happened… every time we left she was given the once over from a mental health “counseller” and informed that they would now be doing follow/check ups on her. But that was the last she would ever hear from them, I realise it is not all their responsiblity but really, why tell people that you are there to help them and will do so, then turn around and do absolutey nothing… Seems like a complete waste of tax payers money on a completely useless dept. Very similar to DOCS…

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4
EvanJames 2:31 pm
27 Jul 11
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It’s so frustrating when they try to push mental health into the general health model. It’s not. And you can’t pretend it is. A person with their arm ripped off and a person going ballistic due to paranoia are not the same animal.

The national nonsense with their making it so much harder for mental health nurses to train as such and be credentialled hasn’t helped either. Here are people who want to deal with people suffering from mental health illness, and they’re putting obstacles in their way.

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5
dazzab 3:03 pm
27 Jul 11
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colourful sydney racing identity said :

That sounds like a terrible experience, however, I am not sure what the hospital could have done, are you suggesting that they could have/should have detained him against his will?

That would have been the exact correct procedure given his mental health record and there are legal procedures used all the time to do just this. They didn’t do it because beds are tight or not available. That’s simply unacceptable.

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6
colourful sydney rac 3:08 pm
27 Jul 11
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dazzab said :

colourful sydney racing identity said :

That sounds like a terrible experience, however, I am not sure what the hospital could have done, are you suggesting that they could have/should have detained him against his will?

That would have been the exact correct procedure given his mental health record and there are legal procedures used all the time to do just this. They didn’t do it because beds are tight or not available. That’s simply unacceptable.

I find it hard to believe that a hospital can forcibly detain someone who has presented for a non mental health matter on the basis that they have a past history of mental illness.

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7
Eppo 3:21 pm
27 Jul 11
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I don’t think there should be any finger pointing at The Canberra Hospital here. I feel for you, but it seems you’re looking for someone to blame.

This person presented as a drug overdose, was treated and then decided to check himself out the next morning. On what basis does the hospital force him to stay? He has a history of mental illness, yes, but my grandfather has a history of heart problems. The hospital doesn’t force him to stay if he turns up with a broken arm. Unless this person had an episode of some sort whilst at the hospital, they are not to blame.

I can’t imagine these drugs are doing much good for a mental health issue either. Should maybe try and get off those…

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8
dvaey 3:23 pm
27 Jul 11
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dazzab said :

That would have been the exact correct procedure given his mental health record and there are legal procedures used all the time to do just this. They didn’t do it because beds are tight or not available. That’s simply unacceptable.

Okay, so they should have detained him, and put him where? In a broom cupboard? Should they have detained him and arranged for his transport to AMC? Should they have kicked another patient out of a bed, to ensure that this individual was provided for, at the expense of another?

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9
dazzab 3:47 pm
27 Jul 11
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colourful sydney racing identity said :

I find it hard to believe that a hospital can forcibly detain someone who has presented for a non mental health matter on the basis that they have a past history of mental illness.

Happens all the time. It’s not difficult at all to get a 24hr order to detain a person with a history of mental illness just for this very purpose. And believe me, you should be thankful for this.

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10
Chop71 3:56 pm
27 Jul 11
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He made a choice and he overdosed.

Stop there (and think for a minute) before you put the blame on the hospital.

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11
colourful sydney rac 3:57 pm
27 Jul 11
#

dazzab said :

colourful sydney racing identity said :

I find it hard to believe that a hospital can forcibly detain someone who has presented for a non mental health matter on the basis that they have a past history of mental illness.

Happens all the time. It’s not difficult at all to get a 24hr order to detain a person with a history of mental illness just for this very purpose. And believe me, you should be thankful for this.

I can understand that this may be the case *if* the person presented with a mental health problem, but, I believe it would be out of line to section someone, on the basis of a past history of mental illness.

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12
dazzab 3:59 pm
27 Jul 11
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Eppo said :

I don’t think there should be any finger pointing at The Canberra Hospital here. I feel for you, but it seems you’re looking for someone to blame.

Not blame. No point in that. Accountability would be nice though. If you do a crappy job at work does your boss just let it slide? These people work for us and should be accountable to us. Again, if my relative had driven a car head on in to you and you suffered a lifetime of consequences, would you feel the same?

Eppo said :

This person presented as a drug overdose, was treated and then decided to check himself out the next morning. On what basis does the hospital force him to stay?

A clear danger to himself and the public seems like a reasonable basis to me. I didn’t say this in the article but this same person was on the front page of the Canberra Times about 18 months ago after a siege in Civic which caused quite a bit of problems for innocent people. Again, I think once you are one of them you will have a much different opinion.

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13
colourful sydney rac 4:08 pm
27 Jul 11
#

dazzab said :

Eppo said :

I don’t think there should be any finger pointing at The Canberra Hospital here. I feel for you, but it seems you’re looking for someone to blame.

Not blame. No point in that. Accountability would be nice though. If you do a crappy job at work does your boss just let it slide? These people work for us and should be accountable to us. Again, if my relative had driven a car head on in to you and you suffered a lifetime of consequences, would you feel the same?

Eppo said :

This person presented as a drug overdose, was treated and then decided to check himself out the next morning. On what basis does the hospital force him to stay?

A clear danger to himself and the public seems like a reasonable basis to me. I didn’t say this in the article but this same person was on the front page of the Canberra Times about 18 months ago after a siege in Civic which caused quite a bit of problems for innocent people. Again, I think once you are one of them you will have a much different opinion.

Okay, nowhere in your original post did you indicate that he was exhibiting any signs of mental illness – was he?

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14
timeeh 4:08 pm
27 Jul 11
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Eppo said :

I can’t imagine these drugs are doing much good for a mental health issue either. Should maybe try and get off those…

I bet there doing alot better for him than mental health services….

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15
dazzab 4:10 pm
27 Jul 11
#

Chop71 said :

Stop there (and think for a minute) before you put the blame on the hospital.

I hope you are capable of taking your own advice and indeed have a think about it. The issue of making bad choices and how society deals with mental heath issues are quite separate. I know plenty of people with mental health issues who have had similar experiences that didn’t overdose if that makes a difference to you. Have a friend explain it to you if it’s too complex.

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