Nicky Stevens' parents 'angry' DHB won't accept responsibility

The parents of a young man who died of suicide have lashed out at Waikato District Health Board (DHB) for attempting to re-litigate findings that it made mistakes in the lead up to his death. 

The 21-year-old was staying at the Henry Rongomau Bennett mental health facility in Hamilton in 2015 after he had attempted suicide. 

His family made it clear that he should not be left unsupervised, but three weeks after he was admitted, Nicky was let outside to have a cigarette and was later found dead.

Coroner Wallace Bain ruled that Nicky had died of suicide, and in his report released on December 6, he said the death had been "avoidable" and that the DHB hadn't taken necessary steps to keep him safe. 

"As a result of the deficiencies in his care, he took his own life in the precise manner and place that he had previously said he would," the Coroner said. 

Nicky's family met with the DHB in mid-December where it was discussed the DHB would apologise and settle with the family "in good faith". 

But DHB Chair Sally Webb and interim CEO Derek Wright wrote to the family in January to say they had put the issue in the hands of their insurance company and external solicitor. 

The pair said in the letter: "The insurer has instructed the DHB's external counsel to raise concerns about the Coroner's process with the Solicitor-General," adding that the family could raise further concerns through their lawyer.

Nicky's mother Jane Stevens said the family is "angry, upset and appalled" that the DHB "continues to fight against accepting the truth of what happened". 

"We thought all of the reports and reviews and hearings into Nicky's death had finished, and we would be able to draw a line under what had happened, and start to move on with our lives," she said. 

"But it seems that Waikato DHB is still more concerned at covering its own butt, than it is in accepting any responsibility for Nicky's death." 

Waikato DHB board member Dave Macpherson said the board had yet to discuss Ms Webb and Mr Wright's course of legal action. 

He said the pair has made "unilateral decisions in this case to allow a private insurance company and external, but taxpayer-funded, solicitor to decide governance issues".

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