Mental health patient shackled to Royal Adelaide Hospital bed for two days, union says
The nursing union has raised concerns about the shackling of an Indigenous mental health patient to a bed at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) for more than two days, describing it as a contravention of his human rights.
- It is understood the Indigenous man was admitted earlier this week after being told other facilities were full
- The nurses union has described the man’s shackling as a contravention of his human rights
- It follows other cases of extreme patient shackling in Adelaide, which have prompted criticism from the ombudsman
A nurse at the hospital sent a message to the Nursing and Midwifery Federation, after being told other facilities were full and could not admit the patient, who is under the supervision of corrections authorities.
“…the patient’s hands are swollen and they have broken skin around their wrists despite nurses doing their best to protect the skin with small dressings,” the nurse wrote.
“If the patient wants anything to eat or drink it has to be done by a nurse. If the patient wishes to use their bowels they have to use a pan on the bed.”
The man is a forensic mental health patient, meaning he should be cared for at a secure mental health facility such as James Nash House or the Margaret Tobin Centre.
He was admitted to the RAH emergency department on Wednesday, and the nurse said on Thursday they tried to push for the man to be moved urgently.
“I escalated this patient’s situation yesterday morning as requiring an urgent bed escalation as their treatment in the ED (emergency department) was in contravention of basic human rights,” the nurse wrote.
“This situation is the worst abuse of a vulnerable mental health patient I have ever witnessed as a health professional.”
Both state ombudsman Wayne Lines and principal community visitor Maurice Corcoran have previously raised concerns about shackling in South Australian hospitals.
The ombudsman has been recommending police use soft shackles since 2012.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Central Adelaide Local Health Network said the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist will investigate the matter.
“We abide by the security instructions of Corrections Officers with regards to prisoners brought to hospital for treatment, including mental health assessments, while advocating on behalf of the patient for appropriate care arrangements,” the spokesperson said.
“Planning for future forensic mental health services is a part of the SA Mental Health Services plan being led by the Chief Psychiatrist and SA Mental Health Commissioner.”
Mr Corcoran said other states had dedicated mental health beds at prisons, which meant there was not the same need to take prisoners into hospital emergency departments, where they would then be handcuffed.
“We just need to do things differently and need to have assessment beds and people for places to be assessed in a secure environment,” he said.
“One of the worst cases recently was of a young woman who was … restrained in a ward with her first episode of mental health awaiting a forensic bed, and was in that situation for two weeks.
“It’s completely inconsistent with the ethics of care within a hospital system.”
‘Disturbing’ pattern of patient shackling
Earlier this year, it was revealed a prisoner was handcuffed and shackled to a bed at the RAH for more than 85 hours because of a lack of secure mental health beds.
At the time, Mr Corcoran said it was “disturbing” that patients were being shackled for such lengths of time.
“There certainly needs to be a much more humane response than handcuffed and shackling people for days on end,” he said.
Last year, the ombudsman found a female prisoner had been shackled excessively while in Flinders Medical Centre and deserved an apology from corrections authorities.
In an earlier instance, the ombudsman also determined corrections staff had refused to take up an offer from nurses to use soft restraints on a male inmate in hospital.
In 2016, it was revealed a young man spent five days with his hands and legs shackled to a hospital bed and had to wear adult nappies because he was denied access to a shower or toilet.
In 2015, the former Labor government indicated it expected completion of the new RAH, which opened in late 2017, would ease shackling concerns.
Mr Corcoran said he had recently met with Health Minister Stephen Wade and was confident the situation would “now be addressed”.