Ahlia Raftery's death in a Hunter mental health intensive care ward leads to change

THE NSW government is expected to announce a $300,000 grant on Saturday to fund a trial of suicide prevention technology in the Hunter after the death of teenager Ahlia Raftery at a Hunter mental health intensive care ward in 2015.

Mental Health Minister Tanya Davies is expected to announce the grant and a trial after the Black Dog Institute applied for a NSW government health reform innovation scheme grant.

The Hunter is expected to be the first region to trial the new version of wireless pulse oximetry units that are less intrusive for patients and became available in 2016.

Ms Raftery’s father Michael said the introduction of back-to-base pulse oximetry units would “definitely see lives saved in Australia” and he was pleased one of the major recommendations from an inquest into his daughter’s death had been accepted by the government.

Ms Raftery, 18, died at the Mater Mental Health Centre psychiatric intensive care unit at Waratah on March 19, 2015, after a “particularly busy” evening, when there were nine patients in the eight bed ward for a time.

It was clear that demands placed on staff shortly before Ms Raftery died in her room, “prevented effective observation of Ahlia” to ensure her safety, Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee found.

The inquest considered a succession of failures linked to demands on staff that led to patient safety being “compromised” in the period before Ms Raftery’s death. Mr Lee recommended the NSW government fund a trial of back-to-base pulse oximetry units that allow for continuous monitoring of a person’s oxygen level. If the oxygen level falls below a certain level or the monitor is removed, an alarm alerts nursing staff.

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