GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ
A man found dead on Palmerston North Hospital grounds accessed mental health services there only days earlier – prompting accusations the hospital has failed to learn from other unexplained deaths.
The man was found in an unused shed in November 2016 and his death was deemed “unexplained”, according to hospital correspondence.
His death has dismayed families of patients who died at the mental health ward.
They say that, despite comprehensive reviews and staffing changes, the culture has not improved at the hospital and there is still a lack of willingness to be open with affected families and the public.
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Ricky Gray’s brother Shaun died of a suspected suicide in the hospital’s mental health ward in 2014.
MURRAY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ
He was appalled something so similar could happen again on the hospital’s watch.
“[This man] was in their arms looking for support and he ended up dead.”
Gray said the board was not upfront about the death.
When initially asked if the man had visited a mental health ward, the hospital’s response was that the incident “did not involve an inpatient”.
A MidCentral District Health Board spokesman has since confirmed the man did access services and was found dead on the hospital’s grounds during a regular security round.
“They had been seen as an outpatient in the days before their death.”
The cause of death would be determined by the coroner.
MidCentral did not say how the man was able to get into the shed.
The spokesman said the board did not need to notify authorities of the death, and privacy issues prevented it from saying more.
Carey Hume’s daughter Erica died on the mental health ward months after Shaun Gray.
She too was frustrated that the hospital was not more open.
“We told them right from the start, if you want people to trust you, you have to be open and honest.”
Since her daughter’s death, Hume and her husband Owen have been advocating for change at the hospital.
Almost every month they travel from the Bay of Plenty to attend hospital committee meetings.
“We have always said we understand no-one can get everything right.
“But it does not mean they can’t do a hell of a lot better.
“And one way of being better is being honest and open.”
Hume said MidCentral was reverting to old ways.
It was “devastating” to have to find out information through Official Information Act requests and other avenues.
“The DHB falls back on this privacy issue way too easily for denying information.”
Hume was confident there was a core group of people working hard for real changes.
“They are sincere and honest.
“[But this] is hindering everything they are trying to put into place.
“If people in management aren’t prepared to get on board and have the true culture change, then they should just get out of the way.
“You feel like walking away, but then you think ‘no, that’s what they want’.
“They need to honour their word, and respect patients and treat them well.”
WHERE TO GET HELP
Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email email@example.com
0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.
For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).