Mentally ill offenders at a secure forensic psychiatric hospital are housed in units that are littered with obvious hanging points, the Victorian ombudsman says.
Ombudsman George Brouwer said those hanging points have only been addressed since a patient took his own life in the Thomas Embling Hospital in June 2013.
The 116-bed hospital at Fairfield was opened in 2000 and caters mainly for patients from the criminal justice system, either transferred from prisons or found not guilty of offences because of mental impairment but ordered by courts to remain there for treatment.
Mr Brouwer found the hospital complied with relevant standards in 2000 but there was no audit process to ensure continued compliance with updated standards.
An audit of hanging points was conducted in July 2013, a month after the patient’s death, with a second performed in October 2013.
Investigators in August 2013 found unreported hanging points in five of the hospital’s seven residential units.
“Although the risk audit identified many high risk ligature points throughout the hospital, my investigation identified several other ligature points, particularly in patient bedrooms, which had been overlooked,” Mr Brouwer’s report said.
“Given the mentally unwell state of patients accommodated at the hospital, it is unfortunate that the hospital has only recently taken steps to identify and address the many obvious hanging points throughout the hospital.
“This oversight is highlighted by the recent hanging death of a patient.”
Corrections Minister Ed O’Donoghue said across the prison system very few prisoners were at immediate risk of self-harm.
“All prisoners who are at immediate risk of suicide are placed in cells where there are no hanging points,” he said.
He said no prisoner had taken their life this financial year.
Opposition corrections spokesman Martin Pakula would not answer questions about why the former Labor government, which opened the hospital in 2000 and left office 10 years later, did not remove hanging points.
“That’s your assertion, but the Labor government over all of its period in office worked in the corrections system to eliminate hanging points where it could,” Mr Pakula said.
“The ombudsman’s report is now focused on the situations as it stands today, and that is that you’ve got almost 40 per cent of cells across the system with hanging points that haven’t been dealt with.”
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