A nurse is suing Wide Bay Health Service after an alleged attack by a patient.
A nurse is suing Wide Bay Health Service after an alleged attack by a patient. Kevin Farmer

Nurse sues over hospital patient's 'attack'

A REGISTERED nurse is suing Wide Bay Hospital and Health Services for more than $845,000 after a patient assaulted her in a violent hospital attack.

A statement of claim lodged in the Bundaberg District Court in December alleges that in July 2016 a nurse at Hervey Bay Hospital was left permanently injured and emotionally distraught following the violent outburst of a patient she was treating.

The document claimed nurse Felicia Pickham, 46, was checking on a patient when he "suddenly and without warning leapt over the side rail of his bed and attempted to run away". The patient had earlier that day been physically aggressive to another practitioner employed at the hospital, it is alleged in the statement of claim.

"The said patient had also earlier engaged in behaviour such as attempting to eat his cannula and spreading faeces on the walls of the toilet," the document says.

Ms Pickham claims that because of the patient's actions earlier in the day, she was accompanied by an assistant in nursing during the visit to his room.

"The plaintiff advised the patient that she wished to take his blood pressure and received an indication ... that he was agreeable to having ... (it) taken," the document says.

At the patient's sudden movement, Ms Pickham retreated toward the room's entrance and tried to calm him down.

It is alleged by Ms Pickham that when the patient's outburst eventually eased, she returned to his bed and tried to lower its rails so he might climb back in, when the patient yanked her arm up, hard.

The document claims the assistant in nursing moved between Ms Pickham and the patient and tried to make him stop.

A doctor arrived a short time later and also tried to get the patient to stop hurting Ms Pickham.

"Neither the assistant in nursing nor the doctor attempted to support the plaintiff's arm or to forcibly remove the patient's hand from where it was gripping the plaintiff's arm," the statement of claim says.

The document further alleges Ms Pickham's injuries, both physical and psychiatric, were caused by WBHHS's negligence and/or a breach of contract of employment.

The employer's alleged failure to ensure a security guard was present during the patient visit, as well as the failure of both the assistant nurse and doctor to remove the patient's grip on Ms Pickham were two of several failures by WBHHS, the court document says.

"As a result of her injuries the plaintiff ... has endured very considerable pain and discomfort and will continue to ... has suffered a permanent impairment of the right arm ... (and) permanent psychiatric impairment ... has lost income ... (and) her ability to enjoy life," the statement says.

A spokesman for the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service said it would be inappropriate to comment on active legal proceedings and "due to privacy reasons we also do not comment on individual employees without consent".

"In regards to safety in general, WBHHS employs more than 3600 employees and regrettably there will be occasions when a team member is injured despite our best efforts to provide a safe workplace," the spokesman said.

He said a focus had been placed on workplace health and safety through initiatives, such as PRAISE, which has received state-wide recognition for its approach in recent years.

Once the lawsuit is received, WBHHS has 28 days to raise a counter claim at the Bundaberg Courthouse registry.


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