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Mentally Ill Patients - Victims Of Assault By Their Caregivers

On a quite Easter morning, two casual care support staff members allegedly assaulted an inmate of a high security mental health unit in Porirua//, New Zealand.

Earlier another member of staff had attacked an inmate at the Haumietiketike‘s menial health unit. All three are under suspension.

Staff and board members of the institution are now under investigation from officials of the Capital and District Health Board. Meanwhile, voices call out for police involvement in the second incident.

Says human rights lawyer Michael Bott: “ I think that it's offensive to justice and it's treating these people as second rate citizens.”

The unit houses up to a dozen intellectually disabled people who have been before the courts. They are said to pose a danger to themselves as well as to society.

"We're talking about people who have been placed under court orders and who are with an organization that is charged in law with their rehabilitation, so it's quite proper that there is an internal investigation around that”, Ministry of Health Advisor Lester Mundell, was quoted.

At the same time, the ministry reiterates confidence in its management. "This new unit has been specially constructed and has been operating now for about three years. During that time there have been a small number of incidents reported, so I don't regard it as a systemic issue at all," said Mundell.

While the police are investigating the first incident, they are still waiting for the health board's internal review before considering any action over the latest allegation.

It has been decided that anonymity will prevail during these investigations. However, the Capital & Coast District Health Board says it has apologized to the victim of one of the alleged assaults and is keeping the other patient informed about the internal inquiry into the second incident.

The Public Service Association says it is in discussions wi th the unit to see what improvements can be made in staff training.

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