Byron Central Hospital's Inpatient Unit.
Byron Central Hospital's Inpatient Unit. Cathy Adams

Tragic death sparks political debate

A TRAGIC death at a North Coast hospital has sparked a disconnected political debate.

Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord has called for more resources for mental health units across the state.

But the incident which sparked his comments has no links to mental health care.

Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones extended his "deepest sympathies" to the family of a man in his 50s who died while he was a patient of Byron Central Hospital on July 28.

The case has been referred to the coroner and an internal investigation is under way.

It's understood the man had Down Syndrome and had left the hospital through an unlocked door.

Mr Jones said the man was not a mental health patient.

"It is important to note that this patient had not ever been a patient of the sub-acute mental health unit at Byron Central Hospital," he said.

"There were no mental health patients in the hospital's general inpatient unit at the time of this tragic incident."

Despite that, Mr Secord has called for a "wide inquiry into the resourcing capacity" of mental health units in NSW, especially on the North Coast.

He linked the recent death at Byron Central Hospital to that of Miriam Merten, a patient who died at Lismore Base Hospital's adult mental health unit in 2014, and said mental health care was facing a "major crisis".

Shadow Minister for Mental Health Tania Mihailuk echoed his calls for more resources.

"The NSW mental health system lurches from crisis to crisis," Ms Mihailuk said in a statement.

"There are serious questions to be asked and need to be answered by the Berejiklian Government.

"The information emerging from the latest matter is truly heart-breaking and our heart-felt sympathies go out to the family."

Along with stating the man's death last month had no connection to the mental health unit, Mr Jones said Byron Central Hospital was "staffed according to industrial award requirements".



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