Bates calls for urgent external investigation of Robina Mental Health

Member for Mudgeeraba Ros Bates has called on Health Minister Cameron Dick to launch an “urgent external investigation” of issues plaguing the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service after months of sustained scrutiny have uncovered serious concerns.

In a comprehensive letter to the Minister, Ms Bates, a registered nurse, said she had been “shocked” to see a series of serious allegations reported in the media and urged an immediate response.

“GCHHS staff continue to express to me grave fears for their own safety, the safety of other patients and the safety of the general public as a result of these reported incidences,” she said.

“As you are aware, I have detailed these reports in the Parliament after my previous written requests to you to have these issues addressed.

“As not only an elected representative but as a registered nurse and former hospital administrator, I believe these are very serious matters which warrant a thorough investigation.

“I am equally concerned that staff have informed me that they have notified the Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) of these matters and to date, there has been no public outcry from the QNU.”

Ms Bates, who in her letter recounted Gold Coast Bulletin reports and concerns raised with her in confidence by hospital staff, said any terms of reference should include an investigation and Root Cause Analysis of:

• Security procedures at Robina Hospital, including the adequacy of staffing numbers following recent security recruitment with a particular focus on the Mental Health Unit at Robina Hospital;

• Staffing arrangements at Robina Hospital, especially the adequacy of staffing allocations with a particular focus on the Mental Health Unit at Robina Hospital as well as turnover, skill levels and nurse-to-patient ratios;

• Salary arrangements for nursing staff, including whether staff at facilities such as The Park Centre for Mental Health are provided salary incentives for interacting with forensic patients whilst GCHHS staff are not;

• Management support at Robina Hospital, including support resources available to nurses when conflicts arise involving doctors;

• Procedures for the use of seclusion at Robina Hospital when security issues arise, particularly whether seclusion should be more readily used and no longer discouraged;

• Security responses to “code black” security incidents, including whether dedicated “code black” training exercises should be introduced and whether a dedicated clinical-led security team should be assigned to the Mental Health Unit at Robina Hospital in anticipation of “code black” security incidents;

• Security arrangements for forensic patients in the Mental Health Unit at Robina Hospital with Robina State High School several hundred metres away;

• Transport procedures for patients between GCUH and Robina Hospital, particularly whether transfers can be reduced to prevent the preoccupation of staff;

• Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) facilities at GCUH, including whether they are funded and staffed appropriately to prevent unnecessary transfers of patients from Robina Hospital;

• Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) facilities at Robina Hospital, including whether they are adequately maintained and secured;

• Review of ASCOM alarms and security systems, particularly their adequacy and maintenance in review of recent system failures;

• Review and action on PRIME Clinical Incident Reporting Systems in relation to assaults on staff and patients in the Mental Health Unit;

• Human Error and Patient Safety (HEAPS) analyses in view of assaults and prevention of assaults on patients and staff in the mental health unit, particularly their adequacy in reviewing clinical incidents; and

• GoPro cameras for security officers and nursing staff to create recordings of security incidents.

Ms Bates said she hoped an external investigation would result in “substantive procedural and structural changes […] for the benefit of staff and patients.”

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