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New clinical boss for Oakden as questions pile up

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A new clinical lead for the Older Person’s Mental Health Service will begin work next week, SA Health says, as questions multiply over the length of time it took for complaints about Oakden to be addressed.

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Last week, the State Government released a report by Chief Psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Groves, detailing myriad concerns over appalling conditions and abuse of patients at the Oakden Older Persons’ Mental Health Service, and committed to closing the facility.

SA Health CEO Vickie Kaminski told InDaily this morning that a new Clinical Lead would begin work next week after Dr Russell Draper stepped down from the position in February.

Kaminski said Draper stepped down “to focus on his clinical duties”.

“So far we’ve taken swift action following the release of the review with eight staff stood down pending a full investigation, 21 staff reported to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and three incidents reported to SAPOL,” she said.

“As we’ve always said, if further claims are found to be substantiated we will have no hesitation in taking immediate action.”

But questions remain over why it took until December last year before the Chief Psychiatrist was commissioned to investigate Oakden.

Community Visitor Maurice Corcoran told InDaily this morning that a report into the alleged over-medicating and bruising of Oakden patient Bob Spriggs was handed to the office of the Northern Adelaide Local Health Service’s chief executive in August last year.

Corcoran said he had received correspondence last year stating that a report into Spriggs’ case had been sent to NALHN chief executive Jackie Hanson’s office in August.

He said it was not until a meeting between him, Hanson and the Spriggs family in December last year that action was taken.

Hanson contacted Chief Psychiatrist Dr Aaron Groves asking for an external independent review of the Oakden facility that month.

“It was after that meeting … that Jackie Hanson asked the Chief Psychiatrist to review this service,” said Corcoran.

Corcoran told InDaily last week that he had been referring concerns about the facility to NALHN “for a number of years” before significant action was taken.

“We have been doing monthly visits there since July 2011 and we have been consistently flagging issues of concern around falls, injuries, et cetera,” he said.

“We have certainly provided copies of these reports to the Chief Psychiatrist over the past 12 months.”

Groves’ report says the Community Visitor Scheme reported on Oakden once each month during 2016. It also describes a series of warning signs concerning the facility that were not picked up, dating back as early as 2001.

He told ABC Radio Adelaide this morning that “my understanding is that it really came to the attention of the chief executive who is the person that’s made those changes in December last year”.

“She commissioned me to do the report but at the same time she took the concerns that she’d heard from the Spriggs family very seriously and decided to make changes before my report was ever going to see the light of day.”

He reiterated his finding that there had been a culture of secrecy among staff at Oakden “and it really wasn’t until a team of four people were there for week in, week out, every day that we started to see the types of problems are contained in the report”.

“There was a culture of secrecy, inward looking, not wanting to be looked at from the outside.

“They did whatever they could to make it look like they were a good service.”

He said the NALHN had instituted a new process for dealing with complaints.

“During the review that became apparent to us that other people had also complained and that they had waited for some time to get responses,” he said.

“I know now that they look at the number of complaints and how quickly they’re responded to and they have a very good process in place where a senior executive would look at the quality of the response to see whether it’s appropriate.”

He added that there had been “dramatic” changes to staffing at the facility since his review began.

“The chief executive has … put her very best people now into Oakden,” said Groves.

“She’s dramatically changed the staffing.

“I think the clinical director is the only one that’s still there, all the others have left.”

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