Nurse knocked unconscious in violent attack

A female nurse has been knocked unconscious by a patient in Modbury Hospital, prompting calls by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) for urgent action on rising violence in Adelaide’s hospitals.

The nurse was found unconscious on the floor of the elderly male patient’s room on Sunday afternoon, turning purple and with no pulse. She was revived after a doctor administered CPR and admitted to the emergency department before being released the next afternoon.   

The ANMF (SA Branch) has called on SA Health chief executive Dr Chris McGowan to intervene in order to protect nurses in Adelaide’s northern hospitals.

The patient who attacked the nurse was transferred to the Lyell McEwin Hospital but staff there were not immediately or fully advised of the assault or about earlier incidents of abuse by the patient, who suffers from severe dementia, including several other assaults and spitting at staff.

“Just as concerning is the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network’s (NALHN) failure to provide support to the nurse after the attack with no contact made to her by management since her discharge from hospital,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

“The patient is now being provided with care in a treatment room at the Lyell McEwin Hospital which is poorly designed or equipped for their care needs and the hospital is refusing to provide additional nursing staff to ensure that care is appropriate,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“This is yet another case where the local managers are clearly failing to meet their duty of care to their nursing staff.

“The chief executive of SA Health is the legal employer for the purposes of workplace health and safety.  Given the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network’s terrible track record in recent times we believe that delegation of responsibility for compliance on Work and Health Safety should be revoked and SA Health take direct responsibility for ensuring that staff are working in a safe environment,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“It is ironic that this very severe attack follows the release of the updated policy framework for challenging behaviours by SA Health following the ANMF (SA Branch)’s campaign for action on workplace violence. “The proposed policy aligns well with the 10-point plan to eliminate violence released by the ANMF (SA Branch) in 2019 – but we remain concerned by the absence of firm requirements for Local Health Networks to implement in full the policies as rapidly as possible.’’ 
“It is clear from the inadequate action by the NALHN in this case that we cannot trust local managers to act without clear direction and accountability. We need the SA Health and the Health Minister (Stephen Wade) to act to protect staff and the patients who are vulnerable.”

SA Police have confirmed they have no intention of investigating the incident or pursuing prosecution due to the age and mental capacity of the patient who assaulted the nurse.