Lismore Base Hospital.
Lismore Base Hospital. Trevor Mein.

Seclusion under scrutiny

SECLUSION practices in Lismore's mental health unit were scrutinised this week after health data revealed the unit held adult patients in seclusion for an average of 41 hours.

The Northern NSW Local Health District has moved to clarify the figure, which is the highest since the unit opened in 2008.  

Referring to Ministry of Heath data, Mental Health director Richard Buss explained the unit had the longest seclusion episodes out of the state's acute facilities in the six months block to June 2016.  

But Dr Buss said from July to December, the average plummeted to 7.5 hours.   

That figure is consistent with those detailed in NSW Heath'sHealth's annual reports over the past five years.   

However, Dr Buss said the number of patients and their duration in seclusion was "slightly higher than the state average" for adults and for children.  

He said the reason behind higher figures was mainly due to the complexity of the patient and the risk they posed to themselves, other patients and staff.   

In saying that, Dr Buss cited the need to "reduce both the rates of seclusion and the average duration" to remain consistent with the controversial practice's purpose as "last resort" treatment.  

He said the unit had explored a variety of approaches such as building design to provide calm, and avoiding placing the patient in seclusion.   

"It's about a lot of preventative measures as well and looking at how we can prevent somebody's behaviour from escalating to a certain level," Dr Buss said.   

Seclusion rooms also operated at the Richmond Clinic when it opened in 1989.   

The Richmond Clinic, the former mental health unit which is now the cancer care unit, was demolished in late 2008 shortly after the new building opened.  

Dr Buss said since the opening of what was a state-of the-art mental health facility, he said the the unit had not undergone any major changes but minor adjustments made to rooms to ensure they are safe for patients safety.   

The seclusion rooms are expected to reopen when the renovations are complete.  

An independent review into seclusion, restraints and observation across the state's mental health service was being finalised.   

Dr Buss said he had has spoken to NSW chief psychiatrist Murray Wright, who was leading the review, and offered the district's support.   

The National Mental Health Commission yesterday joined calls for mental health services to increase their move toward eliminate seclusion nationwide.  

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