From: The Townsville Bulletin News (Queensland, Australia)
`Treated like animals’
INDIGENOUS youths were allegedly stripped, manacled and starved at Townsville’s mental health unit, a letter tabled in State Parliament yesterday claimed.
The allegations surfaced after a former clinical nurse consultant wrote to Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Rob Messenger to voice disgust at the alleged abuse and subsequent Queensland Health investigation.
Mr Messenger yesterday called for an open and independent inquiry into claims three Aboriginal patients were kept naked and hungry for at least seven days.
During that week the patients were allegedly marched restrained around a courtyard and called `animals’ by staff.
Mr Messenger yesterday likened the allegations to the inhumane treatment at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
“If it’s true that the young people were made to exercise manacled and naked, then we have got Abu Ghraib on our own doorstep,” Mr Messenger said.
“I table an email of a former nurse Clinical Nurse Consultant who was employed by Queensland Health and has serious concerns about the treatment of three young indigenous clients who were kept in a secure mental health unit.
“They were kept in seclusion for over a week … which is not usual practice,” the letter stated.
“It was alleged that they were denied clothes, food and tobacco, excessive force was used entering the room, they were marched around the seclusion courtyard naked and in physical restraints.
“Some staff members referred to them as animals during staff handover and one staff member had documented in the notes that the patients would be denied clothes until they could behave.
“These complaints have apparently already been referred to the CMC who then referred these incidents to the ethical standards unit of Queensland Health,” Mr Messenger said.
He said the alleged incident was another reason why an independent inquiry into services at Townsville Hospital should be carried out.
“I will again be writing to the CMC and Health Minister regarding this issue insisting that they give guarantees regarding the well-being of indigenous young people and also how this incident occurred and whether any employee of Queensland Health has been held to account for these alleged incidents.
“This is another reason why a full independent investigation needs to be carried out on the events which have happened at the Townsville Hospital.”
The State Government yesterday confirmed an internal investigation had been launched, but declined to comment further.
“Queensland Health advises that its Ethical Standards Unit is currently finalising an investigation into matters raised by the Member for Burnett,” a spokeswoman for Health Minister Stephen Robertson said.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further until such time as the investigation is concluded.”
The North Queensland Newspaper Company Pty Ltd Copyright © January 2007