LONG BAY CORRECTIONAL COMPLEX HOSPITAL LOCK-IN HOURS
Ms SYLVIA HALE:
I address my question to the Minister for Justice. Are patient lock-in hours being extended in the Long Bay correctional facility hospital? Will the change result in patients being locked in from 3.30 p.m. each day, instead of at 9.00 p.m. as is currently the case? Is it the intention to extend the lock-in hours indefinitely, at both Long Bay and the new forensic facility? How will extended lock-in hours assist patients with mental illness in their rehabilitation? Does the Minister share the view of the New South Wales Nurses Association that extended lock-in hours will exacerbate patients' illnesses, as well as lead to a decline in the quality of care?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS:
I am aware of public statements that have been placed on the website regarding the lock-down hours at the new Long Bay Prison Hospital. I am advised that the daily routine will change at Long Bay Hospital to a system that allows inmates to be out of cells between the hours of 8.45 a.m. and 12 noon, and 12.30 p.m. and 3.45 p.m. These inmates are patients, not able-bodied offenders. Some of the patients also suffer from mental illness. The department advises me that the reduction in out-of-cell hours will allow a team of correctional officers to be on duty after 4.00 p.m., readily and immediately available to Justice Health.
Currently in the existing Long Bay Prison Hospital both custodial and Justice Health staff are on static posts, meaning they are unable to move about the centre freely after 4.00 p.m. In the new Long Bay hospital this will not be the case. After 4.00 p.m. nine correctional officers and a senior correctional officer will be able to move freely across the correctional centre for both Justice Health and the running of the hospital. This means that whatever event occurs within the hospital, staff will be able to respond to Justice Health, visiting doctors, and any other contingency that may arise.
It is important for honourable members to understand that the new model has been formulated in conjunction with Justice Health, which is the Government authority that provides health services to inmates and detainees within the New South Wales criminal justice system. In early March 2008, Assistant Commissioner Brian Kelly and General Managers Jeanine McGlinn and Karen Boyko met with Justice Health executives and their chief executive officer, Ms Babineau, to discuss custodial staffing of the new hospital.
The current staffing model is the result of successful negotiations with Justice Health. Following the meeting, Ms Babineau wrote to the commissioner on 19 March stating that the new staffing model would "reassure staff of the timely health interaction afforded to inmates". The claims by the Crikey website and Justice Action are not evidence-based. I am advised that, in fact, the only available evidence relating to out-of-cell hours is favourable to the new system. In pods 19 and 20 at the Mental Health Screening Unit of the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre there has been a change from extended out-of-cell hours to an 8.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. operation. I am told that since the inception of these reduced hours there has been a marked reduction in serious incidents. In addition, the reduced out-of-cell hours frees up staff, providing more staff presence generally for greater supervision and care of inmates in conjunction with Justice Health.
The responses by Justice Action and the Crikey website ignore a very important point. There will be two new hospitals built on the Long Bay complex: a new 85-bed facility that will replace the existing Long Bay Hospital and will provide general medical care; and the Long Bay Forensic Hospital, scheduled to open in October 2008, which will provide 135 beds and specific care and state-of-the-art facilities to mental health patients. The new forensic hospital will cater to inmates currently housed in the old hospital who are deemed to be forensic patients, and will be managed by Justice Health. The two new hospitals will provide services to three distinct categories of inmates: aged and rehabilitation, medical-surgical and mental health.
In addition to the new facility, construction began in 2005 to build a 10-bed mental health screening unit and a 9-bed clinic for female inmates at the Silverwater Women's Correctional Centre. These facilities have been completed. Construction of a new 40-bed mental health screening unit for male inmates at the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre at Silverwater has also been completed and is operating successfully. The department also operates acute crisis management units for offenders who are at risk of self-harm, and has stringent and intensive risk intervention procedures to ensure that any inmates who may be at risk of self-harm or suicide are managed appropriately and expeditiously. The Government will continue to provide innovative programs aimed at assisting offenders with mental health problems. Any suggestion that the Department of Corrective Services has deliberately set out to endanger mental health patients is unfounded. [Time expired.
Ms SYLVIA HALE:
I wish to ask a supplementary question. The bulk of my question was directed at the impact upon patients of the extended lock-in hours. They will only be out of their cells for seven hours per day. Has the Attorney General undertaken any studies into the impact on people of their being locked up? The Attorney General's answer dealt with the administrative ease but not the impact on prisoners with mental health conditions.
The Hon. Don Harwin:
Point of order: The supplementary question contained argument and should be ruled out of order.
Order! The supplementary question is out of order.