Skull fractured in Forensic Hospital assault

cover Lamp April 2010

Workplace reviewed after patient fractures nurses skull.

The NSWNA Branch at the Forensic Hospital at Malabar, Sydney, has been working with management to review staff levels and workplace practices after a patient fractured a nurse’s skull.

The male nurse was assaulted while attempting to restrain another patient as a member of a response team. The nurse is now back at the hospital on a planned return to work.

The Branch moved swiftly into negotiations with management following the assault in January.

NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda said the hard work of the Branch helped reveal policy gaps and instances where policies were simply not being followed by management.

The Forensic Hospital, the first in NSW, opened in late 2008. It is located within the Long Bay prison complex but is the only Justice Health facility that does not work with Corrective Services officers.

A spokesperson for Justice Health was quoted in the local press as saying that assaults are to be expected in mental health facilities and that the rates of assault at the Forensic Hospital are no higher than other units.

However, Judith Kiejda said this approach to workplace safety was inadequate and demonstrated the need to defend NSW occupational health and safety laws.

‘The Justice Health spokesperson’s reported comments also demonstrate the importance of having an active Branch. It has been the branch’s commitment to raise issues that has ensured that the facility is a safe place for staff, patients and visitors,’ she said.

‘WorkCover was called in to review the incident and the Branch worked closely with senior management on the terms of reference of an external review that has now been completed. The Branch has been tenacious in ensuring that there are adequate staff levels and policies at the facility.

‘Management, the Branch and the Association continue to meet regularly,’ Judith said.