Use of soft restraints – Response

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Supplementary question: is there any truth in the claim in the ABC article on Tuesday, which said that the Ombudsman found that staff from the Department for Correctional Services refused to take up an offer from nurses to use soft restraints? If that claim is true, why is the minister investigating future technologies when it seems that, if that is true, we already have them?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): I thank the Hon. Ms Vincent for her question and her ongoing interest in this subject. I will have to seek information again from the department, and I am more than happy to make sure it is brought back to her with regard to the specific allegation—I think it is fair to describe her remarks as an allegation.

Response received 30/11/2016

In reply to the Hon. K.L. VINCENT (26 May 2016).

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): It is my expectation of the Department for Correctional Services (DCS) that when a prisoner needs admission to a hospital that the security of the prisoner is ensured.

Priority must and will be given to the safety of the community, other patients and staff.

The Ombudsman’s report indicates that medical staff may have requested that consideration be given to softer restraints.

In this regard, the Department for Health have a Policy Directive in relation to providing medical treatment to prisoners within SA Health.

This policy directive sets out the process around making a request for restraint removal or modification, and how to escalate that request for action.

At any time, a clinician may request that the DCS Supervising Officer remove or modify the restraints because they deem it necessary for the purpose of medical treatment, as a result of medical treatment, or because they believe that the restraints could endanger the prisoner ‘ s medical treatment.

If the restraints are not then reviewed within a reasonable time following the clinician’s request, the matter can be escalated to hospital risk managers to contact the prison general manager for action.

If the matter is not resolved at this level, it can be further escalated for resolution between the Chief Executive DCS and the Chief Executive Officer of the Local Health Network. Given the details in the Ombudsman’s report, it appears that this directive was not followed.

I am advised that soft restraints used in hospital environments are designed to immobilise and restrict the movement of a person to stop self-harming, but are not sufficient to prevent escape.

I am advised there is no secure form of soft restraint on the market at this point in time, in Australia or internationally. However, DCS is currently working to develop a secure form of soft restraint in conjunction with New South Wales. A soft restraint is ready to be trialled in South Australia.

DCS continues to work through the Ombudsman’s recommendations.