The Government-appointed patient advocate Maurice Corcoran raised concerns in October last year about the facility, now the focus of a patient abuse scandal, but it took about four months for Ms Vlahos to visit.
On October 22, Ms Vlahos flew to Manchester where she began a two-week “ministerial business” trip in Europe costing taxpayers more than $36,000.
Travel documents state the primary reason for the trip was “to promote Adelaide to the assistive technology sector”.
Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos at Port Lincoln’s Tunarama festival. Picture: Supplied
She also attended meetings to discuss improving mental health care standards.
Chief Psychiatrist Aaron Groves was very critical of the lack of leadership at Oakden in his damning report released last week.
“The results of this failure are captured in the organisational phrase ‘the fish rots from the head’,” he said.
Ms Vlahos, who was parliamentary secretary for mental health since 2014 before becoming a minister, admits she was implored to visit Oakden in November last year.
She was made aware of allegations of abuse at Oakden in December. That was when the family of Bob Spriggs, 66, who was over-medicated and had unexplained bruises while staying at the home, spoke out.
Despite having “some time put aside late last year” to visit Oakden, Ms Vlahos’ diary was moved around and the inspection was postponed.
But she did make it to Port Lincoln on January 25 — two weeks before her eventual first visit to Oakden in February — where she stayed for two days and attended Tunarama.
“I have been endeavouring to get out to visit as many disability and mental health and substance abuse sites across the state,” Ms Vlahos told State Parliament earlier this year.
“In fact, I did have some time put aside late last year, but we had to move things around in my diary and it took several attempts before I managed to get out there and visit the site.”
Opposition treasury spokesman Rob Lucas questioned Ms Vlahos’ priorities.
“Ms Vlahos didn’t appear to have time to visit the Oakden facility after serious concerns were raised with her multiple times, but she had time to go to Tunarama,” he said.
“This is especially (troubling) given that Leon Bignell was already representing the Government at Tunarama — clearly there wasn’t any need for Ms Vlahos to be there for three days.
A spokesman for Ms Vlahos said: “Minister Vlahos represented the State Government at the opening of the 2017 Tunarama, an important economic event for the people of Port Lincoln and the state’s regional tourism sector.
“The trip overseas related to her disability portfolio where she attended a conference and other portfolio-related meetings including those to do with developments in assistive technology.”