A former Perth Children’s Hospital (PCH) healthcare worker has come forward to dispute the WA government’s claims regarding the alleged PCH rape.
At the beginning of this month, the ABC published an essay written by Florence (not her real name), in which she described a fellow male patient towering over her bed before allegedly raping her in January of last year.
The day the allegations were made public, Western Australian Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson spoke to the media. During the press conference she said that staff working on the ward that night had hidden themselves in the nurse’s station out of fear of the alleged male perpetrator.
“There are a number of failures in that night – staff on the floor, but also their support,” Ms Sanderson said.
“It is inexplicable why security wasn’t called when they are available to staff 24/7.”
“Their supervisor also should have attended that incident and supported the staff.”
However, ABC Investigations revealed on Friday a Clinical Incident Review (CIR) stated security was called – a claim backed up by a whistleblower who was on shift at the time of Florence’s alleged rape.
She claimed that two staff members in ward 5A, where Florence was a patient, had called security a few hours before the alleged rape because of safety concerns about the male patient.
The ABC obtained a page from the CIR, which was commissioned by WA’s Child and Adolescent Health Service, that confirmed this.
“On this occasion, security was attempting to build rapport with the patient and did not allude directly to the reason for the presence,” the CIR stated.
“They did not want [the boy] to think that the nursing staff has called them because they felt threatened, and thus avoided telling him the reason for their attendance.”
Security personnel had assessed the male patient and concluded he was not behaving in a physically threatening manner, as previously reported by nursing staff.
However, the former healthcare worker has claimed the male patient was “physically large and was very unwell”.
“The male patient verbally threatened to other patients that he was going to hurt the nurses,” she told ABC Investigations.
“And the nurses were terrified of him.”
Florence’s essay claimed the accused rapist had told her earlier in the day that he was “going to drug the nurses so he could do stuff to her that night”.
This claim was backed up by the former health worker stating there were two cups of water found in the fridge that looked to have crushed medication in them.
The 13-year-old boy had also allegedly asked the nurses to drink them.
The CIR examined the drugging claim but stopped short of confirming it.
“It is possible that [the boy] may have had a plan to drug the nursing staff while on shift,” it stated.
“The behaviour is thought to have included placing pillows under his sheets to fool staff and offering staff cups containing water with possible crushed medication to drug them.”
“The panel was uncertain as to why this was not escalated further to the [shift coordinator] and why the cups of water that were offered to the nursing staff were not kept as evidence. The panel considered this matter to be serious with the potential for staff to involve WA police.”
The CIR stated that it was told “the optimal number of staff for the ward on the evening of the incident would have been eight staff”.
“[A staff member] had been called in for a shift but did not attend, leaving the ward short one staff member.”
“In lieu, a Registered Nurse (RN) was asked to act up into the shift coordinator position … This was the second evening the shift coordinator had performed at this higher level, having acted up on the previous evening.”
The former healthcare worker supported the report, claiming to ABC Investigations that staff had raised multiple “alarm bells” on the night to senior management about their safety concerns regarding the male patient, but they weren’t followed up.
“The junior nurses on that night didn’t have adequate experience to respond to high-risk situations like this, and an experienced staff member called in sick,” she claimed.
“The ward was down one staff member, and the nurses on shift had to act up in roles they weren’t fully trained for.”
This comes as the Cook Government defended the staffing levels that night, saying 5A was “fully staffed”.
Janet Reah, state secretary of the Australian Nursing Federation WA (ANFWA), characterised the government’s response as “throwing the nurses under the bus”.
“I found the Minister’s comments to be out of line,” Ms Reah told Nursing Review.
“There has been no actual evidence produced such as CCTV, which is reported to show nurses actually making rounds on the warn on their rostered run.”
“We need all the evidence before we’re going to draw conclusions; the only thing we can conclude is that this happened in a public hospital under the Minister’s watch.”
Concerns over the availability of the security footage were also raised by the parents of Florence – who say they have been waiting for the tapes for over a year – as well as by Ms Reah.
“CCTV footage must be provided to the family as requested to see what happened,” Ms Reah said.
WA Premier Roger Cook denied any claims from the whistleblower and Ms Reah that nurses on duty that night had been made “scapegoats”.
“Any nurse or medical practice health practitioner, when they step into a clinical setting, have both a collective and an individual responsibility about the way they carry out their duties,” Mr Cook said.
“No one’s been thrown under a bus here… we have undertaken the stringent inquiry and investigation into those events of the evening.”
Over the past two weeks, the WA government has repeatedly assured the public that PCH was safe, further investing $7.7 million to redesign the wards and increase staffing levels – a move the ANFWA slammed as no more than “a quick dollar fix”.
The former healthcare worker agreed, claiming the “ward was still unsafe”.
Colleagues at PCH who still worked in the ward told her of a slew of recent assaults involving children and staff.
“I’ve heard that there have been multiple assaults in the acute area of the ward,” she said.
“One of the staff was knocked unconscious, and the cleaner was hit by their own mop, sending them to emergency at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.”
A report by the Mental Health Advocacy Service (MHAS) found that four sexual safety issues were among 68 potential serious issues regarding young people in mental health facilities across WA in the 2022/23 financial year. This was an 80 per cent increase from the previous year.
The whistleblower healthcare worker said the staff on shift that night were devastated about what had happened.
There are now calls for a Royal Commission into the safety at PCH and gender-segregated mental health wards.Do you have an idea for a story?
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