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Dementia units to be inspected under revised OPCAT framework

Graphic: Door of a hospital facility being closed

The change follows the Commission's 2016 report which recommended widening the OPCAT framework to include locked aged-care facilities.

The Office of the Ombudsman will have the power to randomly inspect about 180 privately-run dementia facilities across the country, in changes gazetted by New Zealand's Justice Minister.

The Office of the Ombudsman and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission form part of the country's National Preventive Mechanism, which has responsibility for independently inspecting all places of detention, including psychiatric units and prisons, under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT).

In 2016, the Commission published a report recommending that the OPCAT framework be widened so that "places of detention" include locked aged-care facilities and disability residences, citing incidents when older people were unable to move from chairs for many hours.

"Staffing levels don't allow for staff to take residents outdoors on request, and people with moderate or severe dementia will struggle to remember scheduled walking times. Their lived experience will be of being locked within a building with no exit," the report stated.

Commission signage and logo

The Commission's report – He Ara Tika: A Pathway Forward – on extending the OPCAT framework to include less traditional places of detention was produced as part of the Torture Prevention Ambassadors Project, an 18-month initiative facilitated by the APF in partnership with the Association for the Prevention of Torture.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier noted that the number of New Zealanders with dementia is projected to nearly triple to about 170,000 by 2050.

"As the population ages and the number of aged care facilities increases it is so important for them to be independently inspected," he said.

"We need to make sure the care of some of our most vulnerable people is both reasonable and humane."

The Office of the Ombudsman currently monitors state-run dementia facilities, with the changes adding a further 185 sites to the list. They will also begin monitoring detainees in about 60 court cells across the country.

Date: 6 June 2018

Source: NZ Herald

Image credits

  1. Door of a hospital facility being closed - Tom Hickmore, Flickr CC
  2. Commission signage and logo - New Zealand Human Rights Commission