10 December 2021

Majority of complaints to Human Rights Commission health services related

| Lottie Twyford
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The majority of the complaints received in 2020-21 by the ACT Human Rights Commission were related to health services. Photo: File.

The ACT’s Human Rights Commission has recorded an 11 per cent increase in the number of complaints it received in the 2020-21 financial year, with the majority of these related to the provision of health services.

Throughout the year, the Commission handled 922 complaints, an 11 per cent increase on last year and a 35 per cent increase over two years.

Of the 922 complaints, 218 related to discrimination, while the majority (640) concerned the provision of health services in the ACT.

Canberrans can make complaints to the Human Rights Commission about any health service provided in the ACT – whether public or private – as well as services provided in settings such as schools and aged care facilities.

The most frequent issues raised were to do with treatment (273 complaints), communication (86 complaints) and professional conduct (68 complaints).

“As with previous years, many complaints relates to communication between practitioners and patients about consent, expectations of treatment and risks associated with particular treatments or procedures,” the report read.

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Examples of the complaints made include a man with limited speech and mobility who received care from a community nurse. The nurse attended his home to change his catheter but had the wrong size and inserted it despite the pain and discomfort caused to the patient.

He subsequently attended hospital to repair the damage. The man later received $5000 and an apology.

Another woman lodged a complaint about an eye injury received during nasal surgery. The damage was caused by chemical burns from an antiseptic used to clean the surgical area.

She also raised concerns about her post-operative care, including a lack of compassion, poor pain management and a delay in referring her eye injury to a specialist.

She received $15,000 and an apology. The surgeon also committed to improvement and the hospital changed its procedures to ban the use of that particular product in facial surgeries.

In another case, a complaint about a delayed diagnosis of a malignant tumour led to the doctor having conditions imposed on their registration to undertake further education. The complainant received $20,000.

A total of 609 health services complaints were closed throughout the year.

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The Commission also received 284 complaints about discrimination throughout the year – 100 were related to disability discrimination.

In one case, a man notified his housing provider that his disability was being exacerbated by his housing situation and requested a transfer to another property. He alleged that his housing provider failed to address his needs and accommodate his disability.

It was resolved with him being transferred to a new property and being paid $2000 in financial compensation and receiving a written apology.

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Within the remit of the ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner sits the organisation Victim Support ACT (VSACT). This organisation provides financial assistance and other support to people who experience crime.

Throughout the year, the Commission also helped more than 3000 victims of crime – a 27 per cent increase on last year – and paid $2.43 million in financial assistance to victims of crime.

“In the reporting period, COVID continued to drive a significant surge in demand for family violence-related support,” the report read.

In 2020-21, around 65 per cent of all offences reported by clients of VSACT related to family violence or sexual assault.

VSACT was able to secure funding for two additional case managers to assist with the surge in demand

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No mention of the percentage of complaints were from the jail. I guess the “victims” of Human Rights abuses there went straight to the media instead…

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