Mentally unwell woman left alone in motel

Michelle Wilkie was discharged by the Southern District Health Board to a motel. Photo: Christine...
Michelle Wilkie was discharged by the Southern District Health Board to a motel. Photo: Christine O'Connor
The mother of a Dunedin woman with chronic mental health issues is furious after the Southern District Health Board discharged her daughter to a city motel, without her medication, to fend for herself.

Michelle Wilkie — whose ailments include obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and a severe eating disorder — was left alone, without provisions, by hospital staff on Tuesday night, her mother, Margaret Crosswell, said.

"They took her down there and left her on her own. Michelle, thank goodness, rang my son to tell him.

"She was on her own and petrified."

Earlier in the day, doctors had told Mrs Crosswell that Ms Wilkie would be discharged, but then said she would be allowed to stay the night.

She was horrified to receive a call saying her daughter — who suffers from paranoia and acute anxiety — had been left alone to cope in a strange environment, and that she did not have her medication.

"They want me to take her: that’s what they want me to do," Mrs Crosswell said.

"I want to, it breaks my heart ... but she’s too sick to go home."

Ms Wilkie has now been transferred to supported living accommodation.

The plight of Ms Wilkie was highlighted by the Otago Daily Times earlier this month.

She has waited more than a year for one of the public beds available at the privately operated Ashburn Clinic.

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran has been advocating on the family’s behalf, and was livid at this week’s developments.

Yesterday, she wrote an urgent letter to SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming about the case.

"I am extremely concerned that Michelle is not receiving adequate supervision and treatment to ensure her safety," Ms Curran said.

"I am very disappointed that it has taken constant letters from myself for our mental health services to be pushed to get Michelle any of the treatment and support she requires and to provide some respite for her very stressed and unwell mother.

"If the Southern DHB is unable to provide the mental health services that our community require, it should speak up."

Earlier this week, Ms Wilkie was assessed at home by mental health staff and admitted to the acute inpatient ward at Wakari Hospital.Mrs  Crosswell —  who has borne the brunt of caring for her daughter — then had a stormy meeting with Ms Wilkie’s doctor, in which Mrs Crosswell said she was told there was "no point" in treating her daughter.

She and two support people with her were then told they were being abusive, and ordered to leave the hospital, she claimed.

Her support people have since written letters of complaint to the SDHB and the health and disability commissioner.

SDHB  mental health medical director Brad Strong said he acknowledged the challenge Mrs Crosswell was facing, and empathised with her situation.

"It’s not appropriate to discuss the specific matters raised via the media," he said in a statement.

"However, there are a range of inpatient and community-based services for those experiencing mental health challenges, and for their families in supporting them.

"Every situation is different and we will continue to work with Michelle and her family to ensure they are aware of and are encouraged to make use of the support that is available."

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