Southern DHB forced to apologise after teenager in hospital was left in room naked overnight, with no mattress

The woman was given only a blanket and a bedpan.
The woman was given only a blanket and a bedpan. Photo credit: Getty

This article discusses mental health.

A psychiatric patient was left in a secure unit overnight without clothing, only a blanket and a cardboard bedpan, a report has found. 

The woman, in her mid-teens at the time, was subject to "incredibly dehumanising" conditions while in the care of the Southern District Health Board, the Health and Disability Commissioner has found.

Commissioner Kevin Allan's decision came after the woman - identified only as Ms A - laid a complaint against the Southern DHB over an incident that occurred in 2013.

At the time, Ms A was staying as a compulsory in-patient at a clinic when she had an argument with a fellow patient and left the premises. Although nursing staff immediately acted to try and get her to return she refused and staff were required to call the police.

In the report, Ms A is quoted as saying: "It was probably the worst, most humiliating and dehumanising thing I have ever experienced and it makes me immensely terrified of getting unwell again".

According to the commissioner's report, the teen had suffered from depression over the previous year and was also prone to self-harm and suicidal thoughts. 

After being restrained by police, she was then taken to a locked unit at a psychiatric hospital. But as there was no bed available at the locked unit, she was transferred to a secure unit under police restraint. 

At the secure unit, her clothing was removed and she was given only a blanket and a cardboard bedpan. 

The lights were also left on all night.

"She was not given a tear-resistant gown to wear. She was also not provided with a mattress or a pillow," the commissioner's report said.

The commissioner found that by treating her in such a way the Southern DHB "failed to respect Ms A's dignity and independence".

The report also found that a number of Southern DHB staff failed to comply with seclusion guidelines outlined by both the health board and the Ministry of Health. 

"Southern DHB failed to ensure that staff complied with its policies and provided care of an acceptable standard."

Although the denial of clothing and bedding was not a "punitive action or intended to humiliate Ms A," concluded Commissioner Allan. "I consider that these actions were unacceptable and unkind."

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