Woman's urine burns lead to mental health talks

TRAUMATIC: Hunter health officials have met to discuss two discharged women found seriously ill in motel rooms.
TRAUMATIC: Hunter health officials have met to discuss two discharged women found seriously ill in motel rooms.

HUNTER health officials have met to discuss their care of discharged mental health patients after two women were found near dead in their soiled motel rooms.

“Amber” and “Lucy”, whose real names have been withheld, were discharged near the start of 2017 by Hunter New England Health’s mental health services, NSW parliament has been told.

Charlestown Labor MP Jodie Harrison said Lucy, homeless and with a history of abuse, was committed to the mental health unit and stayed there for two weeks.

But when the unit discharged Lucy, Ms Harrison said, it didn’t notify Nova, the women’s homelessness service that had been helping her, in contravention of NSW Health policy.

Lucy returned to a motel Nova had found her and became sick and incontinent. When Nova next checked, her bedding was soaked in urine. The mental health unit arranged for Lucy to see a GP two weeks later. Nova staff continued to check on Lucy at the motel but grew increasingly worried. Gaining access to her room, Ms Harrison said, they found Lucy on the floor with urine burns all over her body.

“Lucy could have been lying alone for four days. Paramedics were called and they said that had Lucy been found 12 hours later she would have died,” Ms Harrison said. “Lucy still has a contagious staph infection in one of the burns and scars from the burns.”

Nova staff likewise found Amber in a motel room on a soiled mattress, days after she was discharged from the mental health unit. She had tried to take her own life.

Leanne Johnson, the general manager of Hunter New England Health, said the organisation hasn’t spoken with Lucy or Amber because neither has given her consent to be identified.

“[On Thursday] I met with representatives of Nova ... to discuss these concerns,” Dr Johnson said. “We also talked about setting up the best way to raise any future issues directly so that we are able to act on these immediately.”

Nova chief executive Kelly Hansen said Lucy and Amber’s situations had been “resolved in a positive manner”.

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