Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (16 February 1989)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (16 February 1989)


Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 16 February 1989 It is no good telling people such as the staff of Royal Darwin Hospital, the people who live on the campus and the patients, that all is well because the difficult, mentally-handicapped patients are now in a ward on the other side of the campus. That does not wash. There is nowhere in Australia where the more severely psychiatrically-handicapped patients are housed on an ordinary general hospital campus. There are certainly places where beds for psychiatric patients are provided as part of a revolving-door service in general hospitals and that is appropriate. We should not, however, accept the proposition that that is where we should house psychiatrically-disabled people who need to be constrained. Mr Dale interjecting. Mr TUXWORTH: Mr Speaker, if the minister will listen, he will be able to have his say in a few minutes. In the Northern Territory, we need a proper facility to handle, contain and provide nursing care for those psychiatrically-disturbed people who cannot be left in an ordinary environment, either because of the type of nursing that is involved or the security required to protect the patient or other people in the community. During the last 12 months, a number of incidents have occurred involving psychiatric patients at the Royal Darwin Hospital. One patient wandered into the maternity ward. More recently, a patient was found in the accommodation of one of the doctors on the hospital premises. The most recent incident involved a patient in Alice Springs who caused damage to another psychiatric patient. An Aboriginal person, who had been heavily sedated to travel from Tennant Creek, was mauled by another patient when he arrived at the Alice Springs Hospital. Because he was so heavily sedated, he did not have a hope of caring for himself. Mr Dale interjecting. Mr TUXWORTH: If the minister wants to reject this, I am happy for him to do so. It is, however, what the hospital staff are saying. I say to the minister that there is no reason why anybody in the Northern Territory, who is admitted. as a patient to one of our general hospitals, should have his personal security put at risk because there are patients in the hospital who are likely to be violent or to interfere with other people. That is not acceptable and there is no reason why we should have to put up with it. Sooner or later, the minister will have to come to grips with the establishment of a proper facility. Another reason why he will have to do that has been raised by other honourable members. It is that the nursing of the psychiatrically-disabled is a special and most delicate form of nursing which has a high burn-out rate, which the minister will confirm. It is very difficult to attract psychiatric staff anywhere in Australia. Such staff are very hard to come by and, if we wish to attract a continuous flow of psychiatric staff, which is what we need in all areas of our medical services, we will have to provide proper facilities for them to work in and for patients to be looked after in, otherwise, staff will simply say: 'I do not have to work in this sort of environment. If this is the way you treat your psychiatrically-disabled, go ahead, but I am off'. That is what happened at Tennant Creek, where 7 nurses resigned because they feared for their safety as a result of the interference of the patients. 5575

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