Page 1247 - Week 04 - Thursday, 5 May 2022

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I am incredibly grateful for the work that our clinical teams do every day to support Canberrans with some of the most complex needs. Mental health service delivery is complex, and facilities such as Dhulwa can be amongst the most challenging.

Since 1 July 2021 through to the end of April 2022 there were 82 occupational violence incidents at Dhulwa Mental Health Unit. It is worth noting that 40 of these incidents occurred in the month of February. This has been an incredibly challenging time for the Dhulwa team, the patients, their carers and families. As a result, a number of immediate actions have been taken.

I am aware that Canberra Health Services have taken extra measures to support staff and improve staff safety. These include implementing new safety huddles, reinvigorating safe wards, extra debriefing sessions, enhancing occupational violence training, offering staff redeployment to other areas, increases in activities for people in care, and appointing a senior nurse to focus on occupational violence prevention strategies.

In response to concerns raised at the Dhulwa Mental Health Unit, there are a number of reviews and investigations currently being conducted. The Health Services Commissioner commenced a commission-initiated consideration in February 2021. Canberra Health Services have provided a significant amount of information to the Human Rights Commission for this review and is awaiting the final report.

Members of New South Wales Forensic Mental Health have been asked to conduct an external review of three recent incidents. This is being supported by Canberra Health Services and is expected to commence within a week. This kind of peer collaboration from New South Wales colleagues with significant experience in similar facilities is absolutely key and provides an opportunity to reflect on what we do and how we do it.

As we know, on 14 April 2022 WorkSafe ACT issued a prohibition notice and an improvement notice on the Dhulwa Mental Health Unit. Canberra Health Services are currently working with WorkSafe ACT on a full review of all of the safe work procedures and occupational violence controls in place at Dhulwa.

To deal with the immediate issues, Canberra Health Services are currently working with the ANMF and our clinical workforce to put in place the necessary measures to respond to the WorkSafe notice. This includes ongoing communication with the Dhulwa workforce, as well as staff meetings to hear directly from the team about what further needs to happen. Canberra Health Services will continue to do this and continue to refine their practices to ensure that staff concerns are addressed and acted upon.

As we all know, on 2 May 2022 I committed to an inquiry into the legislative, clinical and governance framework to ensure that the Dhulwa Mental Health Unit operates under best practice standards. The ACT government is currently working collaboratively with the ANMF and ACT public service to finalise the terms of reference for the inquiry and appoint a suitably qualified and independent chair.

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