A medical examiner has opened an investigation into the death of an inpatient in the mental health ward at Palmerston North Hospital over the weekend.
Another coroner’s investigation is ongoing in connection with a death in June, where a 58-year-old man was injured in hospital and died six days later.
MidCentral CEO Kathryn Cook confirmed Saturday’s incident and said her thoughts and sympathies were with the 19-year-old’s family and friends.
“MidCentral DHB has extended its support to the family and is also supporting the staff involved in caring for the youth,” Cook said.
“The death of the young man has been referred to the coroner and the New Zealand police, and the corresponding investigations will be carried out.
“To honor the privacy of the young man and his family, and pending the completion of the investigations, it is inappropriate for MidCentral to comment further at this stage.”
A police spokesman said officers attended the incident and would assist in the coronary investigation.
The hospital’s mental health ward was declared unfit for purpose after two alleged inpatient suicides in 2014. The deaths of Shaun Gray and Erica Hume will be examined in coronary hearings next year.
Their deaths prompted an external review that uncovered systemic problems with the MidCentral District Board of Health’s mental health service.
A new district is due to be built by the end of next year, after the government confirmed that the business case had ministerial approval in the run-up to last year’s elections.
Shaun Gray’s brother Ricky said an independent review was needed to see if lessons were learned from previous research.
“It seems that now we are beginning to see a downward spiral of these events.”
Gray said his family was shocked to learn of the incidents this year and offered their condolences to the men’s families and friends.
“As a family, we are tired of hearing stories where MidCentral may not have been supportive of patients. After Shaun’s preventable death in 2014, more than 60 recommendations were made, covering multiple areas within the health of MidCentral.
“Hearing about these recent incidents, someone must understand what is happening there.”
He said it appeared as if measures put in place, such as the appointment of a clinical executive for mental health and addictions, were being scrapped.
When Vanessa Caldwell left that position in September for a stint as deputy commissioner for health and disability, no direct replacement was named.
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