Page 3499 - Week 11 - Thursday, 24 September 2015
transfer of consumers—interstate and the emergency detention of people with a mental illness or disorder is also addressed. Electroconvulsive therapy and psychiatric surgery, though not used on a regular basis, are also dealt with. The regulation of private psychiatric facilities in the ACT is also dealt with, as is the transfer, treatment and care of those under other states’ and territories’ warrants and orders needing treatment and care in the ACT, allowing for prompt and expeditious transfer to their home jurisdiction or a jurisdiction they have a preference for. Updating the name of the bill reflects the modern approach to the idea that people should be able to recover from mental health issues.
It is no understatement to say that the area of mental health is extremely complex and that it is important to get the care and services as good as possible for those who are living with mental illness or disorder or for those who are caring for a loved one who is suffering with a mental illness or disorder.
I thank the minister for arranging a briefing for me yesterday in light of the 17 rather technical amendments that were added just the day before. It is important that we work to get the very best outcome for those in our community with a mental illness or a mental disorder. It is vital that we get the balance right between the rights of those needing care and ensuring that they have access to the very best care available and well-coordinated care. It is also important that we ensure that our legislation backs up those staff and clinicians who are caring for patients and ensures that they are well equipped and supported.
There are some key changes that I think are worth noting. Firstly, increasing the option for emergency detention from seven days to 11 days has been included because clinicians were finding that seven days was not long enough to stabilise some patients and they were having to apply to ACAT to seek longer term orders that were being used only for a few days and then rescinded. I hope that this change is necessary and not just about making life easier for clinicians; that it really is warranted. I am very concerned if patients are required to stay additional days when they do not need to. I guess on balance we just need to be mindful of placing additional restrictions on people’s liberty—it is a very serious matter indeed. I am assured that this change should reduce the number of longer term orders being issued and I will be very interested to see how this pans out and if that is, indeed, the result.
The second area worth noting is the changes being made to the process around electroconvulsive therapy and psychiatric surgery. I am assured that this type of treatment has not been undertaken in the ACT—particularly, I believe, psychiatric surgery—for around 15 years. However, I am pleased that there are increased measures in place to ensure that a patient is able to give or deny consent, whether it be orally, in writing or by another mode of communication such as physical motioning. I understand that there are some emerging areas around new surgical techniques in this area, so this sort of treatment could become more common again. It is therefore valuable and necessary to have the legislation adequately address this area of human rights of patients being recommended for surgery, and I note that many of the last-minute technical amendments were around the permission structure for psychiatric surgery.