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Beyond the expected

Standard ACT institutional incompetence takes another life

By johnboy 21 January 2009 9

It’s become all too common to learn that one branch of the ACT Government or another has been utterly remiss in its duties.

The Canberra Times reports on Magistrate Grant Lalor, investigating the apparent suicide of Tania Lioulios in July last year in a prison van, taking the unusual step of fingering ACT Health, Mental Health ACT, the courts, Corrective Services and ACT Policing before the conclusion of his inquiry.

    The inquest at the ACT Magistrates Court was told on Monday of a string of communication failures in the 24 hours before Lioulios’s suicide.

    She had twice been sent away from the Canberra Hospital’s psychiatric services unit after its staff deemed her a low suicide risk.

    She was also unsupervised in the rear of the van, while the two officers taking her to Belconnen were unaware she had made several attempts on her own life that day.

He even went so far as to ask the Director of Public Prosecutions, John White, to come and sit in on the rest of the hearing.

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Standard ACT institutional incompetence takes another life
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monomania 6:22 pm 24 Jan 09

SadMushroom said :

I am not saying all police or doctors etc don’t care but obviously we need to be rid of those that don’t so this doesn’t happen again.

SadMushroom 1:39 pm 23 Jan 09

I know that due to the increase in mental illnesses from drug/alcohol abuse the level of care/concern by police, doctors and mental health employees has diminished greatly.
They get so much of a run around dealing with drug induced psychosis (that is a growing problem) and the continual lines of these people screaming for help that the ‘real’ mental illness suffers are often ignored or neglected.

If police etc deal with 10 drug induced cases each day then they start to assume everyone is just a drug addict (and to be honest they hate them).
So when they come across someone suffering a “real” mental illness they don’t differ in their treatment or levels of concern,,,everyone is just treated like a druggo and unless all areas (doctors, mental health etc) get involved there is no difference in the treatment while in police care.

Even when police (some of them) DO have an idea or are told there are mental issues involved they show little compassion and will even try and pretend they didn’t know.

I am not saying all police or doctors etc don’t care but obviously we need to be rid of those that don’t so this doesn’t happen again.

monomania 6:46 pm 22 Jan 09

What I want to know is why the former lover who took out the restraining order that led to the woman’s arrest when she broke it, has legal representation at the inquest. And if there was a supression order taken out stopping Mrs Lioulios’ name being released when the incident occurred and if so by whom.

Xbikee 1:25 am 22 Jan 09

Two things …. there IS a psych ward in town with twenty beds and has only ten patients – for nearly two years now.

The officer-in-charge of directing plebs to drive the detainees to belconnen KNEW of the person’s risks, but, it was getting late in the afternoon, and there was a choice of sending for the station wagon + more supervising officers, or just put her in the back of the truck and get the 11 minute transfer done. Can’t authorize overtime! Lazy. Deadly.

Granny 11:22 pm 21 Jan 09

Sometimes the mind boggles …. Why would anyone turn away a person who was threatening to kill themselves or had already attempted suicide?

fabforty 9:20 pm 21 Jan 09

I agree this story is tragic. It is, however, another example of the huge deficiencies in the ACT Mental Health system.

In a past career, I have had to take many people to the psyche ward at Canberra Hospital. One in particular had just self harmed, was hallucinating, threatening to kill himself and barely coherent. The registrar at the time laughed and said “this is the one I released this morning”. This was only 4 hours later. They took the young man’s blood pressure, gave him some chocolate milk and a sandwich and instructed us to take him to the City Watchhouse because he was in breach of his bail.

We refused. He was eventually admitted for three days worth of psychiatric treatment. And, yes, then he was taken in for breach of bail.

On another note, regardless of whether they were told Ms Lioulios was suicidal or not, surely Corrections staff have the same duty of care as police. In this respect, the regulations state that anyone being transported in one of their vehicles must be observed at all times.

miz 6:55 pm 21 Jan 09

Sepi, you got that right. And it just keeps happening.

ex-nurse 1:37 pm 21 Jan 09

Mental health care in Canberra is fast becoming a joke. It’s become a system for sustaining middle managers and IT professionals in jobs. The whole idea of “care” has been abandoned, and now nurses and others spend all their time getting patients to fill out forms to keep middle managers in statistics so that they can justify their own existence.

The bureaucracy of the system is now it’s reason for existence.

The whole idea of patients being given therapy and care and understanding has been dropped. Clinicians now visit clients and present them with forms and questionnaires and paperwork. If the clinicians do not have all their paperwork up to date, middle managers are down on them like a ton of bricks, hence the clinicians spend all their time getting mentally ill people to fill in forms (which are redone done every couple of months).

As you can imagine if you are mentally ill the last thing you need to do is fill out loads of meaningless forms and paperwork, what you need is time and care. (Forget it!!)

As a consequence of this, patients get medication instead of understanding.

The paperwork is then fed into computers by clinicians, so that the IT department can say, “Ooh look, we’ve generated 17,000,000 pieces of information this month.” (Who is the head of health IT in Canberra?)

Oh, and when clinicians are not being hounded to get forms filled in, they are being hounded by middle managers who come around with clip boards “accrediting” workplaces.

I left six months back, I’ve a good job in the private sector where I can do what I was trained to do, offer patients care.

sepi 10:07 am 21 Jan 09

Very sad.

It seems everyone in Canberra knows someone who has committed suicide after being turned away from the psych ward – yet nothing is ever done. The Psych Ward places should be doubled at least.

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