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Source: Office of the Ombudsman

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says it is unacceptable that restraint methods which can cause pain are still being used to control people with intellectual disabilities at the Mason Clinic.
The Chief Ombudsman today released a report of his inspection of the Mason Clinic’s Pohutukawa Forensic Intellectual Disability Unit in Auckland.
He made 11 recommendations to unit management and Waitematā District Health Board. Eight were accepted and three rejected, including a recommendation to end the use of wrist locks and prone (floor) restraint.
Mason Clinic Regional Forensic Psychiatric Services is one of the few in New Zealand to still use these techniques, Mr Boshier says.
“The service says the use of wrist locks, which can cause pain, and prone (floor) restraint, in which the care recipients are restrained with a staff member’s body, are the most effective way of establishing and maintaining a safe environment.
“I understand that some individuals have challenging behaviour but there are other de-escalation techniques and methods available that would reduce the risk of pain for care recipients,” Mr Boshier says.
“The clinic’s own policy states that the use of wrist locks and prone restraints will be eliminated by 2020. But they were still being used in April 2021. This is not good enough. At the very least the clinic should implement its own policy to ensure that restraint training aligns with human rights standards.”
Other issues identified at the unit include that some care recipients – mostly female – were unable to be accommodated and were sent to other units at the Mason Clinic.
Senior management told the Ombudsman female care recipients were routinely placed in other units due to capacity issues, the physical layout of the Pohutukawa unit and lack of gender separation, and the significant risk factors posed by other male care recipients.
As a result, female care recipients were receiving mental health rather than intellectual disability care.
“In my view, it is inappropriate for care recipients to be placed in other units due to operational and environmental constraints within the service. I will be monitoring this in future inspections,” Mr Boshier says.
New Zealand ratified the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2007. The Protocol requires states to establish independent National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) to regularly inspect places of detention and report on the treatment and conditions of those held within them.
The Chief Ombudsman was originally designated as a National Preventive Mechanism under OPCAT in 2009 which means he monitors places of detention designated to him, such as health and disability facilities, to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
He can recommend practical improvements to address any risks, poor practices, or systemic problems that could result in a service-user being treated badly. Follow-up inspections are conducted to look for progress in implementing previous recommendations. Reports are written on what is observed at the time of inspection.