Nurses at a major Perth hospital could face the first known prosecutions under the Mental Health Act after their "shocking" treatment of a patient was detailed in a damning official report tabled in State Parliament.
The annual report of the Council of Official Visitors, which conducts unannounced welfare checks on mental health patients and investigates complaints, detailed a litany of shortcomings in the delivery of services.
In a case described by council head Debora Colvin yesterday as "the most shocking", an official visitor arrived at the unnamed hospital's mental health unit to find a patient who could not walk without calipers was "shaking, crying and visibly distressed".
"(The patient) was lying on a hospital bed in a nightgown that was pushed up around her shoulders, wearing an adult incontinence 'nappy' that was partially pulled down and full of faeces," the report said. "The bed linen beneath her was wet through.
"Her first words to the official visitor were, 'Thank God, you're here, please save me'."
The patient reported that staff had yelled at her to "clean herself up" and refused to help her out of bed.
They also refused to take a phone to her when the official visitor made initial inquiries.
Ms Colvin said yesterday she had asked acting Health Department director-general Bryant Stokes why the staff should not be prosecuted under Section 162 of the Act for ill-treatment.
Professor Stokes, who will apologise to the woman at her home next week, has asked chief psychiatrist Nathan Gibson to look into pursuing charges.
"It's the sort of thing you just don't think you would come across today," Ms Colvin said.
"The nurses didn't think there was anything wrong with leaving (the patient) like that when clearly there was."
Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said staff did not "uphold the patient's dignity or self-respect".