Nicky Stevens' family reject DHB's investigation into death

  • 17/02/2017
  • By Newshub staff and Lucy Warhurst

The family of a mental health patient who drowned while on suicide watch at the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre have received an apology from the Waikato DHB - but they don't accept a report saying he received good care.

Nicky Stevens, 21, was being treated for schizophrenia. He had stepped out alone for a 15-minute cigarette break - but two hours later staff rang police to say he was missing.

A police search was launched 48 hours later. His body was found in Waikato River three days afterward in March, 2015.

Representatives from the DHB met with his family on Friday to issue an apology and to discuss the findings of a new report into his care.

The DHB's report into the death said the overall level of care Mr Stevens received as in-patient was good, and concluded there were no serious failings by any of the staff around his death.

It's an outcome Mr Stevens' family rejects.

"We tried every which way to see if they would accept responsibility for Nicky's death, or even for contributing to Nicky's death, and we couldn't actually get them to say that," his father David Macpherson told Newshub.

"All they would do is say they apologise for all the little things around the edge that we got wrong, but not that we overall contributed to it."

In a statement, Waikato DHB chief Nigel Murray apologised to the family.

"The death of Nicky Stevens is a terrible tragedy and I would like to apologise most sincerely to Nicky's family for the omissions in our leave processes while Nicky was in our care," he said.

"Our management of leave was unsatisfactory, and I also acknowledge that the family would have valued greater collaboration."

However, Mr Stevens' brother told Newshub this is "disappointing".

"It's especially disappointing because they refuse to acknowledge any part in Nicky's death. They acknowledge there are some failings in their service but they're not linking that to Nicky's death," he says.

"It sounds like they're trying to create a narrative that gets them off the hook."

The report recommended tightening rules around leave, search processes for missing patients and better collaboration with families.

Jane Stevens - Mr Stevens' mother - told Newshub she had expected more from the report.

"I had hopes initially that they would be open, be frank about the failures of the DHB to help us move on, to acknowledge their part in Nicky's death, but it seems for them it's a step too far to actually acknowledge that," she says.

"And it's hugely frustrating, not just for us, but for families - all sorts of families around the country - that experienced that."

Last year police apologised to Mr Stevens' family for what they said was a "black comedy of errors" in their search for him, following a highly critical report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Before the meeting Mr Macpherson, called the findings a "backside-covering report, clearly designed to justify the DHB staff and management actions, and inaction".

"We do not accept for one minute that allowing a patient, who had clearly demonstrated a high risk of suicide, to take unescorted leave on numerous occasions, against the wishes and pleas of his family and friends, suggests anything 'good' about the standard of care provide," he said in a statement.

"The family firmly believes that, had their verbal and written requests for Nicky not to be given unescorted leave been followed, and had DHB management promises been actioned, Nicky would likely be alive today."

NZN / Newshub.

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