What Sam told us
Sam called us after being admitted to an inpatient unit during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was feeling very stressed by the tense atmosphere in the unit as well as its restrictions, such as not being able to get food of his choice, or smoke. He felt that his treating team were not considering his previous diagnoses, or the best ways to support him.
Victoria’s Mental Health Act 2014 and its principles protect the rights of people like Sam, who are receiving mental health treatment from a public mental health service. Services must continue to consider the mental health principles when implementing COVID-19 Public Health Directives and restrictions. Sam has the right to receive treatment in the least restrictive way possible, in a way that responds to his individual needs and supports his recovery, and to make decisions about his treatment.
What we did
We talked to the Nurse Unit Manager about what Sam wanted, including for the service to find ways to reduce the negative impacts of the COVID-19 restrictions on consumers. The Nurse Unit Manager spoke with Sam, considered his concerns and agreed to increase:
the availability and choice of food for consumers
access to leave for smoking, and quitting supports; and
staff engagement with consumers, despite the difficulties of Covid-19.
The Nurse Unit Manager acknowledged that staff had not been responsive to Sam’s needs and preferences for treatment, and the stress being experienced by consumers in the unit. She also talked to Sam about the value of having an Advance Statement, which could help to guide his treating team and other staff if he was admitted again in the future. The Clinical Director confirmed that all of the improvement actions would be undertaken.
Sam told us that his concerns had been heard and addressed by the service and the MHCC. He felt pleased that in helping himself and other consumers, he had also contributed to the broader COVID-19 mental health response. This is because, from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the MHCC has worked with DHHS and the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist to share information from complaints ensuring guidance given to services during the pandemic is directly informed by people’s views and experiences.