A New South Wales man has alleged he was bashed, drugged into a stupor, and laughed at as he tried to leave a Newcastle mental health unit.
It is the same mental health centre where two patients ended their lives within the past two years, and another man killed himself four days after discharge.
The new allegations came on a day when a New South Wales Government panel sits in Newcastle.
It is focussed on seclusion and restraint practices in the state’s mental health units.
Man alleges he was tortured before passing out
The 22-year-old man who wants to be known as John is now alleging excessive restraint at the mental health centre.
He told the ABC he would never forget the day he went to the Mater Hospital in Newcastle July last year.
John said on that day his chronic abdominal pain worsened and he went to the hospital seeking help.
He said he went to emergency, before he was transferred to the mental health centre, where he alleges he was subjected to violence and restraint.
“I wakes up and I’m restrained, tortured, nervous, stressed. Then they proceeded to stand there and laugh.”
He alleged the action came after he refused to be given the narcotic endone.
John rejected claims that he was suicidal, but he said staff disagreed.
He said he was then blocked from leaving the unit.
“I kept telling them youse are all lowlifes. Youse can’t do this, this is illegal. These restraints are used as toys.”
John said he had complained to politicians and the pharmacy board about his alleged treatment, that nearly left him with a broken arm.
“One security guard punched me and said, ‘shut the f**k up you wuss’,” he said.
“The other security guard had my arm up in the air twisted like John Cena does in WWE [World Wrestling Entertainment].”
Hunter New England Health says restrictive practices in mental health units are a last resort. (Stateline)
Mental Health units being scrutinised by independent panel
Restraints and seclusion practices are the focus of the New South Wales Government-initiated independent inquiry, which is conducting one of its hearings in Newcastle tonight.
John said he plans to be there to tell how he felt when Mater hospital security guards allegedly threw him to the ground.
“I am screaming at this point to let me go. I even yelled out ‘I surrender’. Now once a person says I surrender, you surrender. You get off them.”
The inquiry is headed up by NSW chief psychiatrist Murray Wright who spoke to the ABC on the day the Newcastle hearing was announced.
At the time he said there would be horror stories, but people should not be afraid to speak out.
“It’s not a time of mincing of words or hiding heads in sand,” Dr Wright said.
“We absolutely really want to hear what people really think.
“We also want to reduce any inadvertent trauma from being in hospital but a significant purpose in this consultation is to give people the opportunity to speak out and to tell us what their experiences have been.
“This is a rare opportunity for us to take a good hard look at our systems.”
Health service says restrictive practices a last resort
All of John’s allegations had been put to Hunter New England Health.
It did not respond to his claims directly.
But the service did issue a statement on behalf of executive director of the Hunter New England Health Mental Health Service Marcia Fogarty.
“All clinical and security staff working in our mental health services are trained in responding to patient behaviour to de-escalate aggression where this occurs,” Dr Fogarty said.
“Where restrictive practices are used, this is always as a last resort where the person, their family or staff are in danger of serious harm.”
In addition, Dr Fogarty said the dignity and rights of people accessing mental health services must be respected and supported at all times.
“We actively listen to the concerns that people and their carers raise about the care they receive,” she said.
“We have review processes in place so lessons can be learned and practices changed where necessary.
“The expert panel is looking forward to hearing from people regarding their experiences and their ideas for improvements.”
Same hospital where two patients ended their lives
The Mater Mental Health Centre is where 18-year-old Ahlia Raftery died in 2015, prompting damning recommendations from deputy state coroner Derek Lee.
Another woman took her life in the centre in recent weeks.
And in 2013, Tyson Kane Matthews was found dead in his home at Teralba — four days after he was taken to the hospital and later released following a serious self-harm incident.
His mother Kerrie Matthews is taking action in Newcastle District court, seeking damages from the health service for her son’s death.