Press Release – New Zealand Labour Party
Associate Health Minister Jonathan Coleman’s refusal to answer questions in Parliament today regarding a serious assault committed by a patient released from an acute mental health unit is a disgrace, Labour’s Health spokesperson Grant Robertson saysGrant ROBERTSON
4 October 2011
Coleman’s evasion disgraceful and disrespectful
Associate Health Minister Jonathan Coleman’s refusal to answer questions in Parliament today regarding a serious assault committed by a patient released from an acute mental health unit is a disgrace, Labour’s Health spokesperson Grant Robertson says
“An Auckland woman, Jo Heighton, emailed Tony Ryall last Monday. He forwarded that email on to Jonathan Coleman.
“In it Ms Heighton stated she and her husband had ‘nearly been killed’ by her brother, a patient released from Te Whetu Tawera, the Auckland District health Board’s high risk unit, the previous week.
“Her husband received two skull fractures and needed 65 stitches as a result of the attack, and she called for care to be taken with the unit,” Grant Robertson said.
“Today Mr Coleman refused to acknowledge he received the email and was aware of Ms Heighton’s concerns.
“Choosing not to answer questions was not an option. It was ill-mannered and disrespectful to Ms Heighton and her family.
“Mr Coleman should have fronted up. He needed to tell her exactly what he is doing to ensure the safety of patients, their families and the wider public.
“He used evasion tactics to avoid answering why he had stood up in Parliament last Tuesday – when he knew about the attack – and stated there had been a ‘marked improvement in the way patients are being managed at the unit.’
“The unit is in crisis. Bed numbers have had to be reduced to protect staff safety, and staff are worried that patients are being released into the community too soon.”
“Mr Coleman is playing political games, and it is a disgrace. What he should be doing is making sure there are sufficient acute mental health beds in the Auckland region.
“He also needs to assure the public that he is not putting the care of acute patients on to community mental health services who are already struggling to meet the needs of their own patients,” Grant Robertson said.