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March 22, 2023

Govt mental health review ‘a claytons inquiry’

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Ballina health practitioner Alison Vickery is concerned a recently announced government review into mental health services is inadequate. Photo supplied
Ballina health practitioner Alison Vickery is concerned a recently announced government review into mental health services is inadequate. Photo supplied

Chris Dobney

A Ballina health practitioner has described the state’s recently announced review into mental health services as ‘sweeping [the problem] under the carpet’ and is calling for local residents to contact their local MPs about it.

Ballina based health coach Alison Vickery told Echonetdaily that, like many Australians, she was ‘shocked and deeply saddened, by the treatment of Miriam Merten, at Lismore Base Hospital.’

‘To treat anyone in that way, let alone a vulnerable person, is beyond my comprehension,’ Ms Vickery said.

‘The vision reminded me that mental health patients are locked behind closed doors with few people knowing what happens behind those closed doors.

But Ms Vickery said that while the ‘rare vision’ had raised the issue in the public awareness, ‘the government has chosen to set up what arguably appears to be a clayton’s inquiry’.

Budget inquiry

She said the government yesterday ‘confirmed that the main enquiry following Miriam’s mistreatment is to be conducted through an existing Public Accounts (i.e. budget) Committee process into the health care system in general.’

‘The terms of reference of the budget committee are around money, statistics, and efficiency of the healthcare system in general. The abuse of mental health patients, such as Miriam Merten, is to be dealt with in “other matters”,’ Ms Vickery said.

Behind closed doors

‘Another review to be led by the NSW Chief Psychiatrist, Murray Wright, is looking at the policies and practices around seclusion and what are world best practices. In my opinion, this not only side-steps the main issue but once again keeps the issue “behind close doors”.

‘How is this protecting the people of Lismore? How is this answering to the public? It appears to me that the matter is being pushed under the carpet,’ Ms Vickery said.

She added that ‘what went wrong at Lismore Base Hospital was not just the use of the seclusion room (a common practice) but the blatant disregard for a human being.

‘Mental health patients are not able to speak for themselves. As a member of a conscious society, having seen that vision, I believe we have an obligation to speak up for them.

‘Please consider using your voice to speak up for them by contacting your local state and federal representative and demanding that there be a standalone inquiry into abuse within the mental health system including the incident in Lismore,’ Ms Vickery said.


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