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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 2195 ..


Mental Health Crisis Services

MS FOLLETT: I direct a question to Mrs Carnell in her capacity as Minister for Health and Community Care. I refer Mrs Carnell to the tragic events of last Friday night and the media reports today that Mr I'Anson sought unsuccessfully to be admitted to the psychiatric unit at Woden Valley Hospital shortly before this tragedy occurred. I ask Mrs Carnell: Could you advise the Assembly, first of all, how many beds were available at the Woden Valley Hospital psychiatric unit on the day or the night that Mr I'Anson sought admission? Secondly, was a medical practitioner, that is, a doctor, involved in the decision not to admit him?

MRS CARNELL: Unfortunately, the Canberra Times report today that suggests that Warren I'Anson tried to admit himself to the psychiatric unit at Woden Valley Hospital on 16 November - I think that was the Thursday night - was not correct. I am advised that on 16 November 1995 a clinical assessment was made of Mr I'Anson, and the decision was that he did not require admission to the hospital at that time. He did not present for admission at the hospital that night or, for that matter, at any time during that period. On the Thursday, when the decision was taken by the mental health crisis team support worker and Mr I'Anson himself to determine whether at that stage admission was a good idea or not, a decision was taken not to admit him but to put in place a crisis plan to work Mr I'Anson through the period he was going through. I understand that he agreed with that plan at that time. It was also pointed out to Mr I'Anson that, if he felt that he needed to be admitted at that stage, arrangements would be made for him to be admitted during the evening of the 16th or the 17th. It is important to emphasise that, had Mr I'Anson considered that he required admission or, alternatively, if a clinical assessment had been made that suggested that he needed to be admitted, then he would have been admitted. It is that simple. So the report this morning in the Canberra Times was not correct, and I will certainly be writing to the Canberra Times to correct the story.

MS FOLLETT: I ask a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Given the broad community concern about both mental health and the police responses to the events and this tragedy and what I believe to be the need for all of us to work together to improve both the services and the procedures, will Mrs Carnell give an assurance that her Government will work cooperatively with members on this side of the chamber and the crossbenches and the community to learn all we can from this tragedy in order to address all of the concerns that have emerged? From the Opposition's point of view, I can assure the Minister that we will be approaching this whole issue on the basis of finding workable solutions.

MRS CARNELL: I can assure the Assembly that that is the case. In fact, I have already had discussions and sent a letter to Ms Libby Steeper, who is chair of the Mental Health Advisory Council, to suggest that this sort of cooperative approach be put in place. This came about after representations from Libby and discussions we have had over the last couple of days with lots of people. We believe that there are a number of approaches that can be taken, not the least of which would be a forum to ensure that the views of all the stakeholders here are taken into account. We have also initiated a full review of the mental health crisis team - an approach that will happen, I think, in January.

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