In Health

South Australia Shadow Minister for Health Martin Hamilton-Smith

Mentally Ill Prisoners Abandoned By Labor

Victor P Taffa

Correctional Services Minister Jennifer Rankine knew in October that a female psychiatric patient was being handcuffed to a bed in Yatala Labour Prison for 20 hours a day over 9 months and apparently did nothing until the media raised the issue.

“Minister Rankine contradicted herself within minutes in Parliament yesterday by saying in answer to questions that she first heard of the woman’s circumstances in June, and then moments later changed her answer to March.” Shadow Minister for Health Martin Hamilton-Smith said.

“The Minister returned to the House late in the day with a personal explanation to admit that she was first made aware of the issue in October 2011 and briefed again in January.”

“In a disgraceful and dismissive answer to questions in Parliament, Minister Hill questioned whether the female prisoner was mentally ill at all and likened her to a naughty schoolchild who had ‘behaved poorly’ and did not need mental health care.” Mr. Hamilton-Smith said.

“In contrast with her colleague, Minister Rankine described the prisoner as having being diagnosed with ‘severe borderline personality disorder’ with ‘psychogenic seizures’.”

“In a further contradiction of Minister Hill’s remarks, Minister Rankine quoted the Clinical Director and Consultant Physician from Victorian-based personality disorder experts Spectrum as having diagnosed the prisoner as ‘a very complex psychiatric patient’.”

“These two Ministers have not communicated from the outset and are still in separate orbits regarding mental health care standards and services. This case exposes chaos.” Mr. Hamilton-Smith said.

“In a separate case of an Aboriginal offender with spina bifida and mental illness who was forced to stay in nappies for up to 20 hours a day over ten months without appropriate care.”

Both Ministers admitted they first heard about it from the media.

“Prisoners with mental illnesses have been chained up to beds like animals and these two Ministers have responded with flippant irreverence.”

“The Opposition is demanding an independent judicial review to establish the truth of who knew what and when and to find out why our mental health system failed these patients and to discover whether international law has been breached.” Mr. Hamilton-Smith said.

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