MENTAL health experts are calling for an end to the use of seclusion rooms at WA hospitals as it emerged one child was locked up for 12 hours.
A report by WA’s chief psychiatrist Nathan Gibson shows children with mental health problems were routinely locked up and restrained last year.
In a five-month period, there were 40 seclusion episodes for 20 children, with 75 per cent involving girls. Ten kids were held for less than an hour, 11 for up to two hours and fewer than five patients were held for an average seven hours.
Seclusion rooms at Fiona Stanley Hospital and Bentley Adolescent Unit are bare, with just a mattress on the floor and a small blanket to reduce the risk of self-harm. Even mattress sheets are rip-proof.
The Mental Health Act stipulates patients should not be locked up for more than two hours, but can be extended if an examination is carried out by a doctor.
Dr Gibson’s report shows the two-hour guideline was exceeded in five cases involving children. In these instances, the children were held for an average of seven hours.
The Sunday Times understands a riot at the Bentley Adolescent Unit in March resulted in at least one female patient being secluded.
Between July and November, a further 199 adults were placed in seclusion 516 times, with almost one-third of patients held for more than two hours.
The longest an adult patient was locked up was 15 hours.
There were also 393 episodes of physical and mechanical restraint involving adult patients. The rate of seclusion was far higher for children (12.4 per 1000 bed days) than for adults (5.4) or older adults (0.5).
Dr Gibson said use of seclusion and restraint was a “last resort” and might be used to prevent a person from injuring themselves or others.
The chief psychiatrist said he was committed to reducing the rate of seclusion and “where possible eliminating the use of restrictive practices in mental health services across WA”.
Mental Health Minister Andrea Mitchell said she supported the commitment to reduce seclusion. Picture: Nic Ellis Source:PerthNow
Chief mental health advocate Debora Colvin called for seclusions to be banned.“Almost always there is an alternative to seclusion,” Ms Colvin said.
It could take up to five nurses and security staff to restrain a child, she said. “It must be very traumatising for a child who often already has experienced significant trauma in their short life,” she said.
Mental Health Minister Andrea Mitchell said that while WA’s overall seclusion rate was below the national average, she supported the commitment to reduce seclusion.
It must be very traumatising for a child who often already has experienced significant trauma.