Nurses union works with health service in assault probe
DARLING Downs Health is working with Queensland Police as they investigate a sickening assault on a mental health unit nurse on Friday.
Health service chief executive Dr Peter Gillies said the male nurse, 45, remained in a serious but stable condition after the incident at the Toowoomba Hospital Acute Mental Health Unit about 4.40pm Friday.
Early investigations into the incident involving a male prisoner patient, 32, had indicated staffing levels in the ward were appropriate, with existing procedures and protocols followed.
"From what I've been told, the care that the patient received as per all our appropriate recommendations and there was nothing more that we could have done," he said.
"I think it's very difficult with patients who have mental health conditions to provide care that is not intrusive, and to give them the freedom they need to allow them to get better.
"If there isn't any warning that a patient is becoming more unwell then it can be very difficult to try and manage that."
AMHU staff and frontline officers across the broader Toowoomba Hospital have been offered counselling and support in the wake of the incident.
Their colleague remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition.
Dr Gillies said assaults, both verbal and physical, against staff were not uncommon, and staff safety remained paramount for the Darling Downs Health service.
"The majority of incidents that occur in our hospitals are verbal," he said, revealing 228 incidents had been reported in the past financial year.
There is no breakdown available between verbal and physical assaults.
"We've put a lot of work into place to try and optimise the safety or reduce the chances of incidents like this happening," Dr Gillies said.
"Unfortunately people with mental health conditions are unwell, and they can behave in an unpredictable way, and it can be hard to manage."
Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union regional team leader Auriel Robinson said the priority of hospital staff was to treat any patient at health facilities, regardless of their criminal history.
Ms Robinson said the union was made aware of the incident on Friday, and was working closely with the health service to assists police with the investigation.
"They're there because of their mental health, not criminal history," she said.
"The fact is, any worker should be able to go to work safely and go home to their family at the end of the day.
"We're always looking at any injury and whether something could have been done different, and I'm not saying that it could have been.
"We're working with the employer quite closely to ensure the nurse's family are well supported as well as the other staff in the unit, and staff in other areas."
Ms Robinson said it was possible learnings would be taken from this incident which could improve hospital staff safety in the future.
"There is always room for improvement and we will learn from this incident on things we can do better," she said.
"We learn those lessons from incidents like this.
"Unfortunately (assaults) do happen and it's not necessarily unique to the Toowoomba Acute Mental Health Unit, but certainly it does happen.
"I'd love to be able to say it doesn't happen but unfortunately from time to time there are serious assaults."
The assault has also been reported to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.