Editorial May 18 2017

Serious questions need to be asked and answered surrounding the “unexpected” death of a 49-year-old man at Shellharbour Hospital mental health unit.

The Illawarra Mercury broke the news on Tuesday of a major investigation being launched into the death of Port Kembla man Nikola Nastovski at the Mirrabook mental health unit on May 4.

The Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District and NSW Police are investigating the death.

ISLHD chief executive Margot Mains confirmed on Tuesday two staff members had been stood down pending the review.

The patient in question had voluntarily checked himself into the facility and was found dead in his bed one morning.

Sources have told the Illawarra Mercury the investigations will centre around whether the appropriate observations and checks were undertaken by staff.

The family of the patient and the public are demanding answers.

This is not the first time the practices at the Shellharbour Hospital's mental health facilities have been called into question.

Paul Hindmarsh, 31, fatally assaulted Mr Gumley with the dead man's own electric guitar some time between 6.30am and 7.50am on July 31 of that year. 

Hindmarsh was found not guilty of murder due to mental illness in February 2016, but was detained under mental health legislation.

A NSW Health report into that incident found the two men were not checked for hours, with investigators told that staff regularly signed observation sheets without actually seeing patients.

Less than 12 months later, in May 2015, four nurses were stood down at the Eloura mental health unit after a female patient was left unchecked and fled in the middle of the night.

The woman was reported missing by staff on duty at the Eloura mental health unit at 2am, and was later returned by police.

Labor’s mental health spokeswoman Tania Mihaiuk has called for an urgent parliamentary inquiry “examining the level of resourcing and capacity of our health facilities to ensure that these breaches of patient care are not systemic”.

Clearly the system is failing. The family of Nikola Nastovski is owed an explanation of  why the system failed their loved one and how it will be stopped from failing again in the future.