Staff praised over knife drama

Natalie Cole outside Emergency entrance, Bathurst Base Hospital. Photo: Chris Seabrook
Natalie Cole outside Emergency entrance, Bathurst Base Hospital. Photo: Chris Seabrook

Association negotiates security improvements after alleged assault in emergency department. The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association is working to improve security at Bathurst Base Hospital after a man armed with a knife and hammer allegedly detained and threatened a nurse and receptionist.

The female staff members escaped injury in the alleged attack in the emergency department on a Saturday night.

Health service management and patients praised hospital staff and police for their responses to the incident.

The Association is now working with management to examine and improve security arrangements. The security review is being carried out by a joint union/management working party that includes ED nurses, NSWNMA organiser Holly Rebeiro and the Association’s professional officer for work health and safety, Trish Butrej.

Trish said a man who had sought treatment for an eye injury allegedly pulled out a knife in the triage room, ordering a nurse, and a receptionist visible in an adjacent room through an open door, to put their hands up and not touch anything.

“The two staff members were unable to activate duress alarms located on the wall of the triage room and under the receptionist’s desk as well as the personal alarm carried by the nurse,” she said.

When a security guard tried to intervene the man started smashing a window with a hammer, police alleged. Police arrived within minutes and subdued the man with a taser.

A 40-year-old man has been charged with two counts of detaining a person with intent to obtain advantage, being armed with intent to commit an indictable offence, common assault and destroying or damaging property.

A mother whose daughter was being examined by a doctor on the other side of the triage door told the Western Advocate newspaper she heard a man swearing and shouting and glass smashing.

Natalie Cole said the doctor and nurses did not panic and escorted the pair to safety.

“One nurse said, ‘you’ve got to get out now’. Then a group of hospital staff made a circle around us to keep us safe and we moved down the corridor.

“I think they handled it well; they did all the right things. They protected us,” Mrs Cole said.  Bathurst Health Service general manager David Wright thanked police for their “excellent response” and commended hospital staff for their actions.

“It’s evidence of their training that they’ve handled an extreme situation extremely well,” he told the Western Advocate.

Trish Butrej said the joint working party inspected the ED and spoke to a wide range of staff, including nurses, receptionists and security officers, before putting together an action plan.

“Some of the issues we identified wouldn’t necessarily have impacted on this particular incident but we agreed on measures to improve ED security generally,” she said.

Recommendations include installing more locators for duress alarms – especially in high-risk areas such as the triage room.

“There was only one locator for the whole ED so if the alarm went off, security didn’t know exactly where the trouble was and could waste valuable time looking for the exact location,” Trish said. “The hospital needs to comply with Ministry of Health specifications that the alarm system be able to pinpoint the location of an alarm to within five metres.

“The hospital has already relocated a couple of the fixed duress buttons and added new ones.

“We also recommended that the door between reception and triage be kept closed so that if someone does run amok in the triage area, reception – which has a view into the triage room – will have more time to hit the duress alarm before anyone breaks through the door.

“We also recommended that the window between the triage room and the waiting room be replaced with safety glass and more CCTV monitors be installed.”