19 May 2019

Waitematā District Health Board deaths 'déjà vu' - Dave Macpherson

7:38 pm on 19 May 2019

Learning about the deaths of two people at a Waitematā District Health Board unit felt like déjà vu for Dave Macpherson, whose son committed suicide while under the Waikato DHB's care in 2015.

Jane Stevens and Dave Macpherson.

Dave Macpherson and Jane Stevens whose son Nicky Stevens committed suicide while under the care of the Waikato District Health Board in 2015. Photo: RNZ

On Friday, the Waitematā DHB confirmed two patients at its He Puna Waiora mental health unit had died five days apart.

Dave Macpherson's son, Nicky Stevens, walked out of the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre mental health unit in March 2015.

His body was found in the Waikato River three days later and a coroner's report released last year confirmed his death was a preventable suicide because the DHB had been warned he was suicidal. Its care was deemed to have fallen short of what was expected.

Mr Macpherson said he and his wife read a report in the New Zealand Herald yesterday morning that the father of one of the people who died at He Puna Waiora had also warned the DHB his son was suicidal.

"Both of us felt sick ... it's sort of déjà vu. We knew exactly the sort of thing that the family was going through. We could see that they had tried their best to warn the DHB of the possibility of what would happen and it looks highly likely that they were ignored.

"Certainly, for a person to die actually inside the facility is just terrible and shows that they were not, for instance, being kept on a 24 hour watch, which is part of the protocol that is supposed to be followed when warnings like that are taken seriously."

Acting director of the Waitematā DHB's mental health service Dr Kevin Cleary told Checkpoint on Friday an independent investigation into the deaths, which were five days apart and both occurred in the late evening, would be done.

Dr Cleary said the DHB made changes after the first death, including increased staff and removing bathroom doors.

Both deaths have been referred to the coroner.

Mr Macpherson said in their family's experience inquiries did not answer questions.

"It's going to take ages, months, for that to eventuate, the independent people - so called - are being selected by the DHB, the family normally won't be given a say on who's on that panel or group.

"There's no accountability that we've seen in those sorts of reviews. No organisation or person is held to account and I think the family - if they're anything like us - will want answers ... eventually the coroner's hearing may."

He said his family would provide whatever support and advice they could.

"I feel so bad for the family ... they'll be shell-shocked.

"We'll offer them any support they want but they know best for their family so we'll wait for them to make the first move."

Mr Macpherson said he and his wife would meet with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday to discuss their experience and would also bring up the recent deaths at Waitematā.

"The government's mental health inquiry has identified whānau not being listened to as one of the problems.

"I am yet to see evidence that the government is going to change that situation and put some breaks on the medical fraternity as being the only ones who seem to have a say in this."

He would also meet with the new commissioner in charge of Waikato DHB, Dr Karen Poutasi, on Thursday.

"We'll be very interested to see whether they are going to accept responsibility and change things, or whether it's going to be more of the same."

Waikato DHB requested a fresh inquest into Mr Steven's death in February, for reasons relating to a "considerable number of procedural concerns", which it said were not acknowledged.

The board had since been replaced by Dr Poutasi.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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