Long Bay Patients Lockdown

The Victory for the Long Bay mental patients time out of cells isn’t over! Campaign report. It went to Parliament for an Urgency Debate on 12/11/08, and we had the majority. But Minister Hatzistergos’ promises were not kept. Media release 2nd Dec Patient statement

Over recent weeks, concerns were expressed that there would be delays in the transfer of the forensic patients to the new forensic hospital under the Health Department, as had been agreed to by Cabinet following community concern.  The full report of the campaign.

The patients had been assured that when they were transferred, their out of cell hours would be returned. As a result of these concerns, on 12 November 2008, the Greens and the Liberals joined together to support Sylvia Hale’s Notice of Motion in the Upper House, that the practice of early lock downs of these patients be stopped immediately.

Before the motion could be debated, an urgency motion had to be passed.  To do that, the support of the cross benchers consisting of the two Christian Democrats and the two Shooters Party representatives had to be obtained.  Justice Action and the NSW Nurses Association provided written and oral presentations to the cross benchers.  The presentations were successful and to the obvious chagrin of the government, all the parties in the Upper House joined together to ensure the motion was debated.

During the course of the debate, Minister Hatzistergos gave an assurance that by 28 November all forensic patients would be transferred to the new forensic hospital.  His words were unequivocal:

‘Everyone knows that the current situation at Long Bay prison hospital is temporary. I say temporary because it is envisaged that on 28 November this year the new forensic hospital will commence to operate. When that occurs some of those persons detained in the Long Bay prison hospital who are forensic patients will move into the new forensic hospital under a regime that will be managed entirely by Justice Health. However, those inmates who remain in the prison hospital will not be forensic inmates…’ 
Transcripts: Urgency motion Minister’s reply

We believe that those words profoundly influenced the course of the debate to the extent that some of the cross benchers didn’t support the actual motion of condemnation.  No doubt the cross benchers were comforted by the assurance from the Minister that by 28 November, the problem would be solved.

We ourselves have great doubt that the transfer of these patients will take place by that date.  If it does not, we will be seeking reasons why the Minister has misled Parliament on this critically important issue and backing action to take him to task over it.

During the debate the Minister abused and threatened participants from The Greens, Liberals and Christian Democrats and put down HREOC. Justice Action asked the Minister the following day to justify his comments about Justice Action. We are proud of our record of careful research, presenting the truth and standing by our words. We had to follow up the fax and email to get acknowledgement and are still awaiting the Minister’s statement or apology.

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