Greater Freedom Under Anti-Terrorism Act Than Mental Health Act

Patients confined as fight drags on
Mark Russell
July 29, 2007

MENTAL-health patients are being locked in seclusion for up to 24 hours a day at Box Hill Hospital as a dispute between health authorities and psychiatric nurses over staff shortages deepens.

Health and Community Services Union state secretary Lloyd Williams said the hospital’s 25-bed adult psychiatric unit, Upton House, was struggling to cope with a lack of nursing staff.

He said the unit was regularly locked because it had to operate on minimum staffing levels.

He said individual patients might be kept in seclusion — confined in a locked room on their own — for lengthy periods because of staffing problems.

“But I would hope not,” Mr Williams said. “I would hope that management aren’t making those sort of decisions.”

The father of one patient said his son, 31, diagnosed with schizophrenia, had been held in seclusion for nearly two weeks and given two five-minute smoking breaks a day outside.

The Scoresby father said his son, who cannot be named, was forced to stay in a small room, go to the toilet in a tray, eat and be force-fed medication there. He said his son started to hallucinate because of the conditions.

“It’s a pretty pathetic state of affairs,” the father said.

He said his son was not a convicted criminal, but someone who needed proper medical care.

He said his son was receiving nursing and medical care “more akin to an 18th-century mental asylum” and was being denied human contact, books, TV, internet access, and writing material.

“This is a gross breach of every human right and civil liberty enjoyed in a modern democracy,” he said.

The father said his son would have greater freedom detained under an anti-terrorism act than the Mental Health Act.

He asked how health authorities were spending millions in government funding, because it was not spent on patient care.

The State Government announced earlier this month that Eastern Health, which includes Box Hill Hospital, will get 9.3 per cent more funding in 2007-08, taking its budget to $374 million.

Eastern Health adult mental-health program manager Ben Kelly said seclusion was one of a number of treatment strategies under the Mental Health Act.

“We wouldn’t use seclusion to address staffing issues,” Mr Kelly said. “It would be grossly inappropriate and unacceptable.

“Seclusion is not about punishment, it’s a treatment strategy governed under the Mental Health Act.

“Everything is reported to the chief psychiatrist of Victoria on a monthly basis in terms of seclusion usage,” Mr Kelly said.

“Any decisions relating to the use of seclusion is made on clinical grounds by our consultant psychiatrists.

“There can be times when seclusion is used for longer periods but it really depends on the circumstances of individual patients.”

The dispute over staffing and a lack of protection for staff at Box Hill and Maroondah hospitals is before the Industrial Relations Commission.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dr John Barry Myers on July 30, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    Should there be a Public Advocate and management of property (based on the Victoria model) for the ACT?

    Dear ALRC, In reply to this document please note quotations from your own paper are stated then A) answer to this is given.

    A1) Please see submission to LACA Reps, Law reform and Elderly Abuse, document 110, Myers John Barry.

    6.3 Victorian model. In Victoria, the key objectives for guardianship services have been stated as[1]

    A1) as above

    Providing guardianship of last resort ensuring appropriate decision-making in the best interests of the represented persons

    A2) “Of last resort” is NOTIONAL.

    Victoria, it was found that the demand for the Advocate’s guardianship services was greater than anticipated. Approximately half of all guardianship orders resulted in the Public Advocate being appointed.

    A3i) Was there any satisfaction audit done, as to whether “best interest” was upheld? Numbers mean nothing.
    A3ii) Appointment of the Public advocate – Was this really a last resort?
    A3iii) What information is available to back up any credibility?

    The types of involvement include appointment as guardian for disabled people involved in criminal trials, to instruct their solicitors and barristers, and appointment as guardian or `next friend’ in cases before the Family Court. The Public Advocate has also been involved in appeals against orders of the Guardianship and Administration Board which are heard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

    A4) “Disabled people do not need a guardian. They can generally make their wishes known. The Victorian Law lumps physical disability with levels of incapacity. The two are not the same. There has to be a separation without which one cannot say the appointment was a last resort. Denial of this fact is the cause of inappropriate appointments and abuse of peoples’ rights, whether they are disabled or not, and is why the Victorian Legislation, Guardianship and Administration Act 1986 has got to be changed, because it corrupts the whole health system in Victoria, by disenfranchising the disabled including the elderly, and results in the Offce of the Public adocate inflating its own importance as shown has occurred from the start and it results in abuse under licence of government (as if an offshoot of the Hilter experience). This is not a civilised law, but an abusive one, as it licenses abuse under law. Third world countries, the likes of Mugabe could even depend on this. The Guardians of the Office of the Public Advocate do not advocate, they control, they make medical decisions or remove the medical decision making from doctors about treatment and care even when the patient/client or person retains capacity to indicate their wishes, which defines what their best interests are. In such a case the appointment is made not as a last resort and ought to not have been made in the first place, because this is an abuse, unless the person requests a guardian to be appointed. Even so the guardian would be expected to know the needs of the person, their wishes and thus advocate and do what is known is in the person’s best interest, according to their own wishes, and not casue harm.

    Public Advocate — proposed s 48, 49

    6.8 The Commission recommends

    A5) The Vicotrian example is an example of licence to abuse, wwhihc occurs. There si also no audit, nor is there accountability, becasue to appeal in the Supreme Court costs and most people cannot affrod the price to obtain freedom and justice, whihc they may obtain, but at personla emotional and financial cost. Thie law needs to be able to award both damages and costs, which would also aserve as a break on the system that permits abuse. It would introduce fairness into the system as wel as ensure that the appointment of an “independent” guardian is only made as a last resort. But even in this case there needs to eb a process of audit by non-government employed reviewers.

    A6) The appointment of a guardian in Canberra. This must follow the centralisation of the Laws of guardianship and Administration for all states under a Federal LAw, as this is bout ensuring the rights of individuals, which is a national issue not a local or state issue.
    There ought therefore to be one Law for everybody. Unfortunately the Laws in Victoria, pertaining to Guardianship and Administration, Mental Health and orders related thereto and the Medical Practice Act 1994 and actions or decisions of the Medical Practitioner’s Board in Victoria and the bias of its president and officers, and the mission statement are biased and need to be overhauled to include compensation for wrongful decisions and in the case of Guardianship and Administration for wrongful appointments and financial loss and emotional cost, relating to all these Acts of VIctorian Parliament, made in good faith or malificence, but related to them or injury and unjust use of them by these levels of government, which is an intrusion into the legal democracy ensured by the Court system of justice, and is an abuse under licence by government that permits/encourages employees in the above “jurisdictions”, from the health care worker to the presidents of these offices, to be involved in ignoble actions and decisions that fulfill all the criteria of bullying and abuse that the Law is intended to prevent and counteract, but which abets abuse, rather than to stop or better still prevent abuse from occurring.


    A7) I agree these functions are separate, but there is still no accountability of Trustees, who sell off estates at lower prices than they are worth and who mismanage funds and other people’s income to maximise their own benefit. The State Government even withhold payment to doctors that they know occurred, but withhold because A guardian has said they did not authorise the visit. Engagaing in more writing and letters to State Trustees and the GUardian, who knows the visit occurred, and i contend they are not doctors, nor should it be allowed that a guardian can assume the mantle of doctor, amounts to an abuse of the Law, permits bias unless one agrees with the guardian, who is usually only a nurse or who may have no medical knowledge at all, and results in the denial of appropriate health care to the disabled/patient/ person, which is against the basic framework of the WHO declaration of human rights.

    Victorian Law has a lot to answer for and needs to be changed The truculence of the Attorney General in VIctoria, Mr. Rob Hulls, to review the legisaltion demands that Canberra do something about this.

    This is an abuse of the health of VIctorians and the rights of all citizens are also thereby adversely affected.

    It is also clear that psychiatric nurses overstep teir mark too in fingerpointing, and this is further overstated by psychiatric registrars in the health system, as at St Georges Hospital, part of the Eastern network, under Professor Ames, where the least restrictive option is meant to be tried, but is not and anyone who is thought to have a mental illness is placed under involunatry treatment or hospitalisation. Even when their deision making is intact, and a mental health review is carried out, inability to confirm symptoms is taken as an indication that the person is copvering up symptoms of an illness that has no manifestations and which does not affect the person’s daily life nor that of anyone else. Psychiatric nurses’ suspicions is enough to condemn people to fortnightly antipsychotic medicine injections by a visiting Health (more like harrassing) nurse and psychiatrist, when no harm has come to a person and other options have not been tried or an objective period of observation has been denied. Mental Health review panels and Boards made up of a former nurse a psychiatrist and a lawyer condemn people to treatment schedules like this when there is no objective evidence and they shun any option which does not allow the person choice of doctor, therefore the accumulation of patients on their list. There is no shortage of staff only a shortage of judgement, a Mental Health Act and a Guardianship and Admininstration Act (1986) in Victoria that require revision from formats that regulate people as prisoners and nobodies as occurred in a bygone past to the present reuirements of himan rights and care, and lack of liaison with medical specialists and local GP’s who genuinely care.

    I shall be pleased if you would acknowledge receipt fo this letter/document.

    Yours sincerely,

    Dr. John Barry MYERS>


  2. Posted by Foucault on July 31, 2007 at 1:17 am

    Interestingly, the Mental Health Act for the State of Victoria Australia was amended in the second quarter of 2006 to exclude patients from getting a second opinion from a psychiatrist not attached to a mental health institute in the State of Victoria or from a psychiatrist not registered in this state.
    Wondet why this is the case when psychiatrists practising in this state may practise at other hospitals interstate, but the patient is prevented from obtaining second opinions across these boundaries.


  3. Posted by flowerzzau on August 1, 2007 at 12:35 am

    The fact that psychiatric drugs cause the symptoms of mental illness is completely overlooked nationwide by psychiatrists in the system. Just read about the drug still proscribed to children in this country but banned by the FDA in the nineties, as an example –
    Luvox: (Other side effects observed more frequently in children are: abnormal thoughts or behaviour, cough,increased period pain, nose bleeds, increased restlessness)
    Zoloft (What are the possible side effects of Zoloft? Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: skin rash or hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Contact your doctor promptly if you have any of the following side effects, especially if they are new symptoms or if they get worse: mood changes, anxiety, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, irritability, agitation, aggressiveness, severe restlessness, mania (mental and/or physical hyperactivity), thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself.
    Call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:
    •seizure (convulsions);
    •tremors, shivering, muscle stiffness or twitching;
    •problems with balance or coordination; or
    •agitation, confusion, sweating, fast heartbeat.
    Other less serious side effects are more likely to occur, such as:
    •feeling nervous, restless, or unable to sit still;
    •drowsiness, dizziness, weakness;
    •sleep problems (insomnia);
    •nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth, or changes in appetite or weight; or
    •decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm.
    Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome.

    This is supposed to act as an ANTI-depressant!

    The list of effects is equally if not more extensive with the atypical antipsychotics…. Zyprexa, Clozapine, Rispedal and so on.The MIMS manual listing drug effects reads like a psychosis manual.

    People such as this young man in Victoria, are being locked up and forced mind altering drugs and called mentally ill because Mental Health services the pharmaceutical companies and business has to make profits and profits means more tanks and guns for war.

    And what does seclusion do for a person’s mental health?

    Some of the lesser known reasons seclusion is used:
    a. so that staff don’t have to deal with a person’s behaviour on the drugs or in horrific withdrawal from the drugs.
    b. as a measure to cower patients in order that they obediently accept the ‘benefit’ of hallucinatory drugs.
    c. add to the torture of the person who is hallucinating on drugs…. ie. “here you are we’ll make you hallucinate then take away human contact”.

    The administration of the Mental Health Act is about obedience to the state. This was the case in Soviet Russia where dissidents were captured and injected with Haldol and paraded as schizophrenic…. psychiatrists know exactly how to create the symptoms of mental illness, and a person only has to say they have one symptom to be locked away for years in Australia. In the 1970s and 1980s the authorities committed political prisoners to mental institutions. Psychotropic drugs were used to permanently damage the psyches of prisoners in a clean, hands-off manner.
    The Falun Gong were captured and put in psychiatric wards and injected with such substances as Largactil and Sodium Pentothal most likely at lower doses and less frequently than is the case with the everday Australians in today’s Mental Health System.

    Beware Australians, if you openly criticise about the effects of psych drugs to a psychiatrist or staff in the hospitals…..either you or your child or both will end up diagnosed and forced drugs and locked in seclusion…. or one of you will watch in anguish as the other is locked up 24 hours a day.

    Mental Health or Mental Abuse?
    It is all about keeping customers…

    Who will help this young man in Victoria and all the other people who lie in miserable seclusion around the psych wards of the country… crying for someone to help them out of the loop between government and big business?


  4. Posted by Peter on August 2, 2007 at 12:44 am

    Dear Doctor psych,
    I just had an idea you’ll love.
    Let’s invent an illness that can’t be tested. We can have a small group of us who can decide that it really does exist and include it a big important reference book.
    We can diagnose simply as a ‘professional’ opinion.
    I mean, who’s going to argue anyway!
    The drug companies will be happy to spend millions promoting by saying their drugs can ‘treat’ it.
    Oh, and we’d better say we can’t actually cure it and it’s for life.
    We can lobby the government and show them some kind of research, you’re good at that kind of thing, and after a while they will fund it with taxpayers money.
    Just imagine all the money we’ll make with the thousands of people who are looking for help. The public just love drugs.
    If they don’t want to take the medication we’ll invent another illness, ‘resisting treatment disorder’, and force it on them.
    How does that sound?
    Done any good lobotomies lately? How are your Big Pharma shares doing?
    Dr. Drug.


  5. Posted by flowerzzau on August 8, 2007 at 9:23 am

    My child of 16 has been force fed 30mg Zyprexa for 4 months and injected with Zyprexa on top of oral doses and injected with Largactil, Midazalom until she was collapsing, incontinent,fitting,oculo-gyric crisis daily, locked in seclusion for 12 hours on end…..
    Psychiatrists experiment with scheduled children and they have the audacity to blame the problems they create on the mothers and fathers. They care for no one and nothing,they care not that they damage our children nor kill them.
    this needs to be talked about in the media as most Australians don’t know it is going on, just like they had no clue about the Stolen Generation that took 200 years to bring to consciousness.
    In a sense it is worse for the scheduled children because if the parents and/or child disagrees with the henious ‘treatment’then the Department of Community Services takes away parenting rights and believe you me,state health departments and psychiatry, Docs, the drug companies AND the government are one revolving door.
    Sounds like a conspiracy? It is real!
    What do they target to effect it?…… the maternal and paternal bonds between child and parents…. they rip into the bond like a savage dog tearing strips off meat.
    How much leverage do parents have? Very little in the local courts when psychiatrists and buraucracies present false and misleading evidence and the magistrates are in bed with them.
    Tribunals should be taped and aired on T.V… their reasoning are illogical,they rule on hypotheticals…while patients sit in front of them totally delerius and deemed competent.
    For many families, it is a hate machine beyond compare…. state – ordained terrorism and torture.


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