The long overdue Coroner’s hearing into the death of Waikato DHB patient Nicky Stevens is to take place at the High Court in Hamilton on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week (13th-15th June).
Nicky, 21, was an inpatient of the DHB’s Henry Bennett Centre, subject to a compulsory order under the Mental Health Act and a known suicide risk, when he disappeared on March 9th 2015 after being given unescorted leave outside the Hospital grounds, despite strong family opposition.
After a botched Police non-search, Nicky’s body was found three days later in the Waikato River, not far downstream from the Hospital.
A subsequent Independent Police Conduct Authority report strongly criticised a series of Police errors and inaction after Nicky’s disappearance, and the family received an unreserved apology from the Police Commander.
Nicky had been admitted to the Hospital’s Emergency Department some three weeks earlier after a serious suicide attempt, requiring five hours of urgent surgery. After he was transferred to the Henry Bennett Centre, Nicky’s family repeatedly questioned Nicky’s treatment and care, specifically putting in writing their strong opposition to unsafe decisions by DHB psychiatrists to grant Nicky several periods of unescorted leave.
Nicky’s family pointed out to DHB management and clinicians that he would be at high risk if allowed out of the Hospital without someone being with him.
DHB staff ignored the family’s views, and acted throughout the episode as though they knew best, despite DHB policies requiring family views to be taken into account.
A review by an independent psychiatrist (arranged by the Police) of Nicky’s treatment and care has said that the risks to his safety were not properly assessed, and that his death was avoidable.
The DHB twice refused to fund Nicky’s legal representation, even though he was legally under their care at the time of his death.
The family expect that the hearing will highlight the DHB’s clinical and organisational failings that led to Nicky’s death, and look forward to the Coroner ruling on a series of recommendations that they hope will ensure no other family has to go through what their family has over the last three years.
Dave Macpherson is TDB’s mental health blogger. He became a Waikato DHB member after his son died from mental health incompetence.