It sounds like things have gone to pot at Hutt Hospital.
The Hutt Valley District Health Board is trying to tell us there is little it can do to reduce cannabis getting into its mental health unit.
According to a Radio NZ report, a former patient has blown the whistle, saying cannabis is regularly used by patients – and it’s often smoked only metres from a nursing station.
Lyn Copland, whose son is in the unit, spoke out last week claiming patients had regular access to recreational drugs because the unit is understaffed.
Now a former patient, who won’t be named, says cannabis was readily available in the unit, with one patient taking orders and delivering marijuana to others in the ward.
She says there’s little or no visible effort to stop the drug use.
So what’s going on?
Is this further evidence of the country going to hell in the proverbial handbasket as increasingly we embrace permissiveness?
Radio NZ has got some sort of an explanation from Hutt Valley District Health Board chief executive Graham Dyer.
He told them visitors caught with drugs get a trespass notice.
Patients who are caught are likely to be put under tighter security – but…
He says drugs are usually brought in by voluntary patients, who staff are not allowed to search.
Oh, and yes, there is an element of permissiveness in the board’s policy.
Mr Dyer says the unit’s open policy is there to make people with drug or alcohol issues feel comfortable seeking help there.
The clinical director of Hutt Hospital’s mental health unit says the accessibility of cannabis at the unit is a wider problem not restricted to the Hutt Valley.
Wolfgang Kure says many patients believe cannabis will help their condition, when in most cases it slows down recovery.
This should alert hospital authorities to some harsh fiscal facts of life.
If cannabis use prolongs the recovery period for mentally enfeebled patients, presumably their treatment takes more time than necessary.
And that must burn up more public money than it should.
The DHB website – it should be noted – boasts that smoking is not permitted within the grounds of any Hutt Valley District Health Board site, including Hutt Hospital.
Not permitted, maybe – but is it tolerated?
And if it isn’t tolerated, what is done to stop it?
And if a tobacco ban is effective, how come a cannabis ban can’t be effectively policed?
Alf recalls that the Waitemata District Health Board was a helluva lot more determined than the wishy-washy Hutt DHB seems to be.
Not so long ago it won a legal battle against mental health patients who wanted a hospital smoking ban lifted.
In May, three patients being treated for mental disorders launched an application for judicial review, saying being forced to quit smoking while in care was unfair and an extra burden to cope with when trying to combat illness.
But in a decision released today Justice Asher has dismissed the claims, saying the Waitemata DHB is entitled to implement a non-smoking policy to protect staff and visitors from smoke.
He says there is no discrimination on the grounds of psychiatric illness and no breach of human rights in this instance.
Waitemata DHB chief executive Dr Dale Bramley says the decision validates its smokefree policy.
Dunno why the Hutt DHB doesn’t take a similar no-nonsense approach to cannabis use.