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Wednesday, 16 August 1989
Page: 176

Senator JENKINS(5.21) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I rise to speak to the final report in the series Residents' Rights in Nursing Homes And Hostels. The principles on which this report are based are set out at the front of the report and include the principle that every resident of a nursing home or a hostel has a right to be treated as an individual. Other principles relate to information being available to the residents, to their having a sense of involvement, and to their rights not being reduced by their capacity to exercise those rights but to have those rights exercised for them.

In Western Australia concern is being expressed by many people about the lack of involvement of patients in various hospitals and nursing homes in decisions which are being made on their behalf. I certainly believe that, if the proposed charter were to be implemented as set out in this report, many of those patients' rights would be addressed. In fact, in Western Australia a health watch group has been set up because of people's concern. This health watch group has set itself up to actually survey what is going on in hospitals and nursing homes.

I would like to draw the Senate's attention to certain of the clauses in the proposed charter. The second clause states:

The charter shall provide that all residents have . . .

(ii)the right to maintain personal independence, personal choice and personal responsibility for all actions, including a recognition that some actions may involve an element of risk which the resident accepts and which should not be used to prevent or restrict those actions;

The health watch group has discovered that in some homes for the aged harnesses are being used against the wishes of the patients and against the wishes of the relatives of those patients. I regard that as something that needs looking into. Perhaps more seriously, clause (xi) states, in part:

the right to be treated with dignity and respect

It has also been brought to my attention, through the health watch group, that a very disturbing event is happening in some of our homes for the aged, C class hospitals and nursing homes. We have three completely independent reports from three different hospitals of what is happening. We are finding that some older patients are being given a drug called melleril, which is a tranquilliser. One of the side effects of this drug is incontinence. These people are having their underclothes removed, are being placed in short gowns, and are being seated on padded cushions as a result of the incontinence caused by this drug. In fact, one constituent has related how his 89-year-old mother, who while being cared for at home needed no medication whatsoever, when placed in a C class hospital in order to give some respite to the carers was given the drug melleril, with the effect which I have just mentioned. When she was placed back at home, of course, the incontinence disappeared as she was no longer on the drug. I believe that this is not a situation which can be supported by our society. I would, therefore, with all caution, refer also to clause (xix) of the charter, which says that the residents should have:

the responsibility for their own health, as far as is possible, and to undertake all prescribed medical treatment . . .

I think we need to qualify that with a mention of informed consent with regard to that sort of treatment, either by the patient or by the patient's advocate. This chamber may well soon be discussing the rights of the unborn, so surely we must place top priority on the rights of the living. I certainly commend this report and would hope that there would be full and open discussion on the proposed charter of the rights and responsibilities of residents in nursing homes. I would like to mention just briefly a report in today's West Australian that there has now been published a long-awaited report into patient abuse at Graylands Hospital which confirmed that mistreatment of patients by nurses had occurred.