Mental health units too quick to isolate themselves

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Pierre Veschaffelt

Peter Boshier: Mental health units too fast to isolate themselves

The chief ombudsman says health authorities do not appear to take his criticism of solitary confinement in mental health units seriously.

Judge Peter Boshier reported on follow-up visits to Te Toki Maurere in Whakatāne and Te Whare Maiangiangi in Tauranga which found that the number of isolation incidents was increasing, although the duration was getting shorter.

This is despite the Bay of Plenty District Health Board setting up a Isolation Reduction Project Team.

He says the fact that Maori patients are disproportionately isolated makes it a treaty issue.

“You can’t just say you are taking action to reduce isolation, you have to. And yet we find that in the case of Te Whare Maiangiangi, Maori accounted for 40% of entries but 57% of events in Maori-related isolation. It’s not enough,” he said.

Justice Boshier says seclusion is a serious intervention with no therapeutic benefit and with potentially harmful effects on patients.

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