More than 300 physical incidents at Dhulwa Mental Health Unit over three years

More than 300 physical incidents at Dhulwa Mental Health Unit over three years

More than 300 physical incidents were reported at Dhulwa Mental Health Unit over a three-year period.

But security staff at the facility have also experienced assaults. In the past three years there have been a total of 32 incidents reported by security staff. Not all of these incidents were assaults.

There have been eight incidents where security staff suffered a serious or moderate injury, an answer to a question on notice has revealed.

A security supervisor at Dhulwa lost consciousness after he fell and hit his head on a concrete retaining wall while trying to break up a fight between two patients. This happened in January.

On another occasion, in August 2020, a security supervisor was left with a fractured cheek bone and severe bleeding following an assault by a patient.

In the same month another supervisor was assaulted by the same patient and was left with a black eye.

Two other supervisors and a security officer received knee injuries that required rehabilitation following an assault by the same patient on separate occasions.

Over a four-year period there were 21 workers compensation claims by Dhulwa nurses. The claims related to occupational violence related injuries, bullying and harassment, falls and physical injury.

The information was outlined in response to questions on notice by opposition health spokeswoman Leanne Castley.

When announcing the inquiry, ACT Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said more needed to be done to ensure nurses were safe.

"Our nurses should feel safe, supported and confident at work so they can deliver the best possible care across our health system," she said.

"Following the recent incidents at Dhulwa, it is clear more must be done to ensure nurses feel safe."

The inquiry into Dhulwa is being led by former Fair Work commissioner Barbara Deegan. The inquiry is expected to deliver its first findings next month, with a final report expected by November.

Dhulwa workers, clients and unions have been able to make submissions to the inquiry. The inquiry accepted submissions until August 7.

It was prompted after the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation had publicly warned a "catastrophic event" was imminent unless action was taken. The union said there were 100 assaults reported in the six months to February.

Nurses also reported concerns of a blame culture, saying they had been blamed for violent incidents when they had been reported to management.

A number of the assaults occurred in February this year, authorities have said. This was due to "specific circumstances" in the unit at the time but authorities will not elaborate.

WorkSafe ACT issued improvement and prohibition notices to Canberra Health Services in April for Dhulwa following reports of violence.

The workplace safety watchdog's notices showed inspectors believed there had been contraventions of the Work Health and Safety Act.

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Lucy Bladen has been a journalist at The Canberra Times since 2019. She is an ACT politics and health reporter. Email: l.bladen@canberratimes.com.au