In a distressing turn of events in New Zealand, a woman with traumatic brain injury and with a history of complex mental health issues was left homeless due to the negligence of a disability service and its team leader, as declared by the Deputy Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC), Vanessa Caldwell.
According to an HDC report, the woman was residing in a disability service facility in June 2020 when she experienced a bipolar disorder relapse, manifesting as a manic episode. Despite the severity of her condition, she was neither admitted to a mental health service nor placed under compulsory treatment after an evaluation.
On July 3rd, the team leader irresponsibly took her to a far-removed hospital emergency department without notifying her family or ensuring she had her necessary medications. This lack of foresight and coordination displayed an alarming indifference towards the woman’s well-being and a violation of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights. This code emphasizes the provision of services that align with the consumers’ needs and adhere to legal and ethical standards.
Regrettably, the woman, who had been depending heavily on the disability service due to limited support from her family, was not admitted to the hospital and subsequently became homeless. The HDC highlighted this as a clear act of ‘abandonment,’ criticizing the disability service for prioritizing their interests over the woman’s urgent needs.
The HDC urged the disability service, ACC, and Te Whatu Ora to work on enhancing the synergy between rehabilitation and mental health services to avert similar future tragedies. They emphasized that the focus should always remain on the well-being and safety of the individuals entrusted to their care.