2 May 2022

Investigation announced into Dhulwa Mental Health Unit

| Claire Fenwicke
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Nurses working at the secure mental health facility Dhulwa say violent incidents have escalated over the past six months. Photo: Google Maps.

An inquiry will be launched into Canberra’s Dhulwa Mental Health Unit, following reports of dozens of assaults on staff and WorkSafe ACT issuing improvement and prohibition notices for the facility in the past two months.

The independent investigation will review the centre’s legislative, clinical and governance frameworks, to “ensure the facility operates under best practice in a safe environment for all workers and patients”.

Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said the inquiry will address the immediate issues that have recently been raised at Dhulwa, and that clinicians, consumers, staff and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation ACT (ANMF) will be involved throughout the process.

“Our nurses should feel safe, supported and confident at work, so they can deliver the best possible care across our health system. Following the recent incidents at Dhulwa, it is clear more must be done to ensure nurses feel safe,” she said.

“Staff and the ANMF have asked for the inquiry to be conducted quickly and with clear and focused terms of reference, so nurses are heard, and findings are operationalised in a timely manner that supports a safer workplace culture.

“We are now finalising the terms of reference with the ANMF nurses and Canberra Health Services and selecting an independent chair for the inquiry. The pathway forward to establish the inquiry, conduct it, and operationalise the findings will involve staff input so we can achieve the best outcomes for their workplace culture and safety.”

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Canberra Health Services CEO Dave Peffer welcomed the inquiry, which he believes will provide “valuable opportunities to learn from external experts as we seek to improve workplace safety and team member wellbeing”.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to keep our team members safe while providing exceptional care for the patients at Dhulwa, and look forward to collaborating with all relevant stakeholders during the inquiry process,” he said.

The ACT Government said the inquiry will call for submissions, hold hearings as needed and give the inquiry’s Chair unfettered access to any information and staff as required.

It will also be informed by recommendations from the WorkSafe ACT review, Human Rights Commission review and an independent clinical mental health review.

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ANMF ACT Branch Secretary Matthew Daniel also voiced his support in the wake of the announcement.

“The establishment of the independent inquiry demonstrates that the Government is serious about listening to nurses and acting to keep them safe,” he said.

More to come.

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