HMR (was) when I first encountered her an active member of my social circle. She was always extremely well presented, ‘used’ to have a regular job and lived happily in her own unit at Woodridge. Her older sister discovered HMR was running up bills without paying them. To complicate matters, HMR had less than wonderful relationships with men and retreated at times into a fantasy world populated by ‘ideal’ people. Anyway to cut a long story short, HMR was admitted on the sister’s instigation into the mental health unit of Logan Hospital where she was diagnosed with delusional psychosis.
Despite issues with an imaginary marriage and pretend children, I’ve always contended that HMR could have been recovered at that time given appropriate counseling but with only one brother (now deceased), one largely dis-interested sister with her own problems, a few friends who like all of us were too busy with their own commitments and a health system that prefers to park folk with mental challenges in the looney bin instead of making an attempt to sort them out, she was abandoned to the system.
I’ve never spent much time in funny-farms and then only for the purpose of visiting an inmate, but I can assure readers its ‘interesting’. One character was racing around with a toy spaceship yelling ‘beam me up Scotty’ and another had a toy submarine and was screaming ‘up periscope’. I venture to say that if a person wasn’t crazy before they got committed to a place like that, they certainly would be in a short space of time. I guess the moral of the story is to never get committed because once in its highly unlikely you’ll ever get your life back.
There was no QCAT at that time but its predecessor for the purpose of the story GAAT was around, suggesting a certain individual who now appears to have the reins of QCAT was in charge. Anyway the Guardian was appointed for who knows what but it doesn’t matter because there was never any sign of that mob and they were reportedly removed at their own instigation after a few years. My guess is that the lack of available money to be siphoned off by sister entity the Public Trustee was the deciding factor rather than lack of need for a guardian. Needless to say the Public Trustee got its grubby paws on what little money was left after all the outstanding bills had been paid. There wasn’t much of an estate, some petty cash after the mortgage on the unit was paid out and a car (unregistered by that stage) worth possibly a thousand dollars.
Initial accommodation was one of a number of privately run share houses at Morningside for folk with mental issues but that didn’t last long due to the spate of boarding house fires that prompted the then state government to come up with stringent rules for fire safety. The old wooden houses could never be updated to conform with the new requirements so the organizers (who operate a number of similar places) rented a bunch of private dwellings in which to park their people pending demolition of the old wooden houses and re-construction of properly compliant accommodation. It seems full advantage was taken of generous government subsidies for construction of private mental health care accommodation and several loopholes were exploited in respect of the ostensibly ‘temporary’ solution.
One of the essentials for any operator is compliance with a code that details how many people can be resident in any given property and what level of assistance must be provided based on the number of residents. Any place with less than six residents conveniently fits under regulations requiring even casual on-site medical personnel and does not require any fire protection.
During the six odd years the temporary arrangement was in place, Public Trustee interest in the welfare of their victim dwindled to nothing although its interest in stripping money out of the victim’s disability pension didn’t wane. Up until then, the victim was always impeccably presented but after the accommodation provider had taken its cut and the Public Trustee grabbed everything left over, there was nothing for the victim ergo grey hair, no visits by hairdresser and no makeup.
To add insult to injury, the total lack of supervision meant that the victim was given a supply of her prescribed medication and expected to take what she needed. Only problem is that the stuff really needs to be professionally supervised because overdose results in horrendous weight gain. With nobody taking an interest, the victim’s weight ballooned to well over 200kg (she is around 160cm tall) and the alarm was only rung when a friend (actually the one who had suffered the brain bleed in October 2014) took the by now horrendously overweight one out for lunch. It was only then that the glassy-eyed demeanour, slurred speech, mental confusion, extreme obesity and lack of presentation was brought to the attention of the hitherto disinterested sister, the operator and whatever authorities could be prompted into action.
Initially the mental health care mob declined to get involved claiming the operator had told them licensing wasn’t required for premises with less than six inhabitants. We later discovered that there were only five residents, at least whenever the operator had been tipped off that an inspection was imminent. Eventually after who knows how many phone calls and emails to all and sundry, I did succeed in getting through to a higher level official who sprung an unannounced inspection and surprise surprise, discovered the shonk that had been going on for years. Needless to say, the Public Trustee case manager responsible for HMR managed to escape censure but the replacement accommodation was hurriedly finished within a couple of weeks so at least the unfortunate victims now live in a place that complies with current relevant standards.
Funnily enough, the Public Trustee case manager never thought it worth getting the Guardian involved, but since he apparently never actually visited either the earlier wooden houses or the non-compliant ‘temporary’ accommodation in which HMR was housed for more than six years, its understandable that the Public Trustee didn’t know its staff were failing to honor their responsibilities. I suggest the situation might have been different if the flow of money dried up however.
At this point I’m unaware of the current situation with money for personal use but plan on following up on that in the near future. The case however is indicative of the problems that arise when a for-profit accommodation provider takes the bulk of a victim’s pension and the avaricious Public Trustee seizes whatever is left over. Quite obviously any claimed interest in the welfare of the victim goes out the window when money is at stake.
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