Minister backs action in response to Miriam Merten death
MINISTER for Mental Health Tanya Davies has stood by the State Government's decision to expand an existing parliamentary inquiry to examine mental health despite opposition calls for a stand-alone inquiry.
The expansion of the inquiry into Management of Health Care Delivery comes after the inquest findings last week into the shocking death of Miriam Merten at Lismore Base Hospital's mental health unit in 2014.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Mental Health said Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith, is the chair of the Public Accounts Committee that is currently conducting the inquiry into the Management of Health Care Delivery.
"It is entirely appropriate that the committee inquire into the management of mental health," the spokeswoman said.
Former politician, Brian Pezzutti, who is the chair of the Northern NSW Local Health District, said the Government's move to conduct an independent review and expanding the parliamentary inquiry are constructive steps moving forward to strengthen the state's mental health system.
Dr Pezzutti said the review, led by the NSW Chief Psychiatrist Murray Wright, would examine the policies and practices around seclusion of patients in mental health units to ensure that patient care and safety was world's best practice.
While the parliamentary inquiry, he said would assess the operations of the entire health system, including mental health.
He described the lower house as the "premier parliamentary committee".
"They are quite independent the parliamentary committees, they don't dance to the Government's tune. They have got a good history," Dr Pezzutti said.
He, like LHD CEO Wayne Jones, outlined the number of reviews conducted by government bodies, such as the Hospital Care Complaints Commission, prior to Ms Merten's death in 2014.
Dr Pezzutti is a member of the Government's Mental Health Commission and was also on the select committee for the last inquiry into mental health service provisions in 2001.
Shadow Minister for Mental Health Tania Mihailuk said it's time the government ran another inquiry centred on mental health services.
She said the abhorrent nature of Ms Merten's death "warrants a stand-alone parliamentary inquiry into mental health facilities".
Ms Mihailuk was concerned mental health care would be lost in the board terms of reference guiding the inquiry to assess health care delivery across the state.
However, she was confident the review would be a constructive step forward to assess the use of seclusion, restraints and observations across the state's mental health system.
The spokesperson said the Terms of Reference, timeframes, and panel members for the review are being finalised.
In conducting the review and the inquiry, deputy chair of the medical staff council at Lismore Base Hospital Chris Ingall said it's important to speak to the deregistered nurses and other clinicians at the unit when Ms Merten died.
"I think a first-hand perception is always the best, it's not hearsay," Dr Ingall said.
One of the deregistered nurses Christine Borthistle, the senior nurse on duty at the time of Ms Merten's death, died "unexpectedly" last month.
Former Northern NSW Local Health District CEO Chris Crawford was contacted for comment by The Northern Star.