In one of the more surreal moments in television, Mark Sainsbury interviewed six IHC caregivers, during Close Up, about a series of training sessions they were given that allegedly instructed them to help their charges masturbate. The Nelson Mail runs the article here. One of the workers, Janet Gambell of Nelson, reported that:
“…the orders were made during three staff training sessions over the past 18 months.
“Most of the sessions were spent discussing the masturbation issue, she said.
“The basis for it was “that (clients) have a right to feel like everybody else and if they want to be masturbated, that you are there to do their care”, she said.
“Staff were told that sex toys should be supplied if needed, said Mrs Gambell, who resigned from NZ Care in May.”
Their lecturer, Relationship and Sexuality Consultant Claire Ryan, said there was “no truth at all” in the women’s claims.
“During the courses, ethical issues were raised and it was possible that the women had mistaken general discussion, meant to raise ethical issues, as orders.”
And the sex toys were there for what? A visual aid?
I watched the caregiver’s faces – they were visibly upset and disgusted. One, whose face you couldn’t see, sounded like she was in tears half the time. If they were telling a fabricated story, I’m really impressed with their acting skills.
The manager of NZ Care group, Donna Mitchell, flatly denied the claims, essentially saying that the women were lying. She then went on to say that the matter was being investigated. I am not exactly sure how you can issue a firm denial that an event occurred before you investigate it. Clearly a graduate of the Helen Clark school of management.
Ms Ryan, of course, should be fired immediately. This whole thing may indeed be a huge misunderstanding and these poor ladies have got hold of completely the wrong end of the stick (no double entendre intended!). However, all that illustrates is that Ms Ryan – I presume Relationship and Sexuality Consultant = Sex Therapist? – is an inept lecturer who cannot seem to get an important ethical point across – that no caregiver should ever become sexually involved with a client (even the Bill Clinton level of sexual involvement).
What NZ Care group thought they were doing having this level of discussion with non-professionally-trained caregivers, is beyond me. None of these ladies had the necessary training to deal properly with sexual needs in IHC clients and should never be placed in a position where they would have to deal with it on any level other than to walk away.
And, frankly this dumb comment on sex workers by Independent Nursing Practice director Annette Milligan, just suggests to me that perhaps Claire Ryan was indeed implying that caregivers should “service” their clients. How this is any different from the sexual abuse that the intellectually handicapped have to put up with already, is not clear to me.
Perhaps Mitchell, Milligan and Ryan need a refresher course in ethics.