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Woman Illegally Detained, Commissioner Says

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Rae Lamb
Rae Lamb

Wellington, Nov 30 NZPA - Three health organisations have been slammed for their role in the unlawful detention of a 43-year-old alcoholic woman.

In a decision released today, Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner Rae Lamb said the woman, who later died of unrelated causes, was failed by Auckland District Health Board (ADHB), the Taikura Trust and the Aranui Home and Hospital.

The woman, identified only as Ms A, lodged a complaint with the commissioner's office after she spent more than a year in Aranui Oak Park Dementia Unit on the understanding she was legally required to do so.

Ms A was admitted to Auckland City Hospital in May 2007 by community centre staff who were concerned about her physical and mental wellbeing.

She suffered from a range of illnesses and memory problems and was not considered legally competent.

The hospital began, but never completed, applications for a court order under the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act to allow decisions to be made on Ms A's behalf.

Taikura Trust, a needs assessment and co-ordination service, then sent Ms A to Oak Park, a 20-bed secure facility in Epsom that mainly houses people over 65, where she remained until October 2008.

"Ms A made it clear on numerous occasions that she did not wish to be locked up in a dementia unit for older people," Ms Lamb said.

"However, like Taikura Trust, Oak Park failed to respond adequately to these concerns."

When Ms A became "too well" for the secure unit, the Community Alcohol and Drug Service (CADS) discovered there was no court order and therefore no legal requirement for Ms A to stay at Oak Park.

Ms Lamb said ADHB, Taikura Trust and Aranui Home and Hospital all failed Ms A and breached the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumer's Rights.

"This report finds multiple deficiencies in the care provided to Ms A," she said.

"No one was legally appointed to act on her behalf, or informally available to advocate for her. She was effectively detained at Oak Park for periods of time, when there was no such legal requirement, and it was neither in accordance with her wishes nor always appropriate for her needs."

All three organisations criticised in the report have since made procedural changes.

Ms Lamb referred the case to the commissioner's independent prosecutor for a decision on whether to take Aranui and Taikura to the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

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