Politics — 19 May 2017
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South Australian Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos. Picture: Tricia Watkinson

The National Mental Health Commission has called for greater efforts to eliminate the use of seclu­sion and restraint, as the South Australian government investigat­es placing security guards at the state-run Oakden nursing home to protect residents.

The Weatherill government has been embroiled in scandal since Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos last month belatedly released a report by Chief Psych­iatrist Aaron Groves that revealed years of poor care at Oakden, ­including seclusion, restraint and rough handling.

NMHC chief executive Peggy Brown called yesterday for a uniform approach to the regulation of seclusion and restraint.

“There needs to be jurisdictional agreement on definitions for seclusion, physical restraint, mechanical restraint and chemical restraint that is reflected in jurisdictional legislation,” she said.

“We also require a national appro­ach to monitoring and reporting on seclusion and restraint across jurisdictions and services.”

Dr Brown’s comments come a day after Ms Vlahos revealed the latest abuse claim at Oakden, the second within a week, which ­involved a staff member allegedly restraining a patient with excessive force. Both cases have led to staff members being stood down and reported to police.

In total, 25 staff have been reporte­d to the national health regulator in relation to Oakden.

The state government, which said last month that Oakden would close, will fast-track the removal­ of vulnerable patients, many of whom suffer severe dementi­a. Ms Vlahos told parliament yesterday that residents had been “through a rigorous clinical assessment”, with 16 determined to move to the Northgate Aged Care facility and 14 recommended for relocation to other services.

“Consultation is under way with families to finalise the decis­ion on where to place each resident,” the minister said.

The government had investig­ated placing security guards at Oakden to protect residents from staff until they could be moved, in response to a call from the opposition, but this had been ruled out on clinical advice, Ms Vlahos said.

“I think it’s prudent to listen to medical advice … that we do not approach this way,” she said.

The state’s Principal Community Visitor, Maurice Cor­cor­an, who reports to the minister, said the sec­urity guard proposal was unwarranted given scrutiny on Oakden. “There is a lot of anx­iety among families and staff … given the politics that are playing out at the moment,” he said.

Ms Vlahos, who with Premier Jay Weatherill visited Oakden on Friday, has resisted calls to resign.

The minister told parliament yesterday that in answering more than 230 opposition questions, “I continue to be straightforward and honest about what we are doing on the Oakden site”.

This piece was first seen on ‘The Australian’ May 19 2017.

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