18 November 2022

WorkSafe ACT, police, coroner investigate 'distressing' alleged murder of hospital patient

| Lottie Twyford
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mental health unit at Canberra hospital

Staff members have been offered support following an alleged murder at the Adult Mental Health Unit on Sunday (13 November). Photo: ACT Government.

The ACT’s work safety watchdog has been called in to investigate an alleged murder of a patient on Sunday (12 November).

An 18-year-old patient has since been charged with the 38-year-old’s murder at the Adult Mental Health Unit (AMHU) over the weekend.

The teenager was remanded in custody when he faced the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday (14 November). He did not apply for bail.

Both were patients at the AMHU but further details about their admissions remain unknown.

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The matter is now being concurrently investigated by ACT Policing, the Territory’s coroner and WorkSafe ACT, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith confirmed at a press conference on Thursday (17 November).

When asked to provide details about the support available to staff, patients and the families of patients, Ms Stephen-Smith stressed it had been immediate with people “on the ground” following the “distressing” death.

“There were people on-site and that was rolled out to make sure staff knew what was available to them,” she said.

“[Making sure] staff, who were understandably quite distressed, were getting the support they required was one of the highest priorities for leadership at the hospital.”

The Health Minister said the team had also reached out to patients in the unit and their families. She was unaware of any other incidents at this point.

She was reluctant to provide further details given the matter remained before the courts and was subject to other reviews.

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Yesterday, Canberra Health Services (CHS) confirmed an internal review was underway to determine whether any immediate changes were required.

A CHS spokesperson said staff members could access support through their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) while additional support sessions had been allocated to staff at AMHU.

“Additional senior management also continue to be available to support team members and patients during this time.”

Matthew Daniel

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation ACT branch secretary Matthew Daniel says he will be asking questions of the government about the support being given to staff. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for the hospital said the unit had been fully staffed at the time of the alleged murder.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) ACT branch president Matthew Daniel stressed the importance of timely support for staff.

“In recent times, we’ve had members report to us they can wait for weeks for counselling until it’s made available,” he told Region.

“That’s not good enough and it’s important the organisation itself responds in the right way [because] there’s a hell of a lot of distress around this.”

Police confirmed on Sunday that security staff had been at the unit and were able to assist healthcare staff following an altercation between the two men.

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