Health Minister Steven Miles at Townsville Hospital. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Health Minister Steven Miles at Townsville Hospital. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Safety fears after drugs smuggled into hospital

THE husband of an acutely ill woman smuggled syringes and white powder into her room at Townsville hospital during a major security blunder.

When nurses called for back-up, they were told security was "too busy" to attend.

Later they were told in an email that it was too costly to call them out.

A senior nurse tells me a heavily tattooed man was able to come and go as he wished for at least nine days at Townsville Hospital, despite syringes being found hidden in a tissue box, bed clothing and in the woman's incontinence pad.

Nurses were alarmed to notice the man also carried a pocket knife in a pouch on his belt in visits earlier this month.

The nurse says the man in his 50s became aggressive, shouted obscenities and warned nurses not to interfere.

Townsville Hospital’s Emergency Department.
Townsville Hospital’s Emergency Department.

In emails to their managers and in conversations with me, the nurses say pleas for security were not taken seriously.

Nurses say they were told: "Security is too busy to come."

In an email, the nurses were told "resources are limited" and "security is an expensive option". This was because the private security teams on call had to travel in pairs.

In a report to her superiors one nurse wrote: "The husband arrived and was yelling at his wife while punching his fist into his hand.

"He began swearing. I calmly asked him to cease as he was upsetting his wife. He yelled f--- off. I informed him if he continued to abuse his wife and myself, security would be contacted.

"He then stated again while punching his hand, 'You will see me very angry if you do that'. This gentleman is around 187cm with numerous facial, arm and body tattoos.

"The nurse rostered in the bay today has also raised his aggressive demeanour.

"Registrar was present post the incident and has requested this be raised with security also as he may pose further risk to other patients in the bay."

Nine days later on October 11, the alarm was raised again and security was called.

"Security were called and did attend the ward briefly. However, they were unable to stay on the ward," another nurse said in an email.

"Staff are understandably feeling very confronted and concerned for their welfare when dealing with this behaviour of both the patient and her partner.

"Multiple staff have raised their safety concerns for themselves and other patients this morning."

 

 

Health Minister Steven Miles outside Townsville Hospital. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Health Minister Steven Miles outside Townsville Hospital. Picture: Zak Simmonds

 

 

The nurses say needles found in the room were uncapped, heightening the risk of needlestick injuries.

Terrible assaults and threats of violence against nurses in our hospitals seem to be on the rise.

But what happened in Townsville recently beggars belief.

The intruder not only threatened staff but his wife. She was a woman of a similar age whose name and medical condition were not revealed to me. I'm told she later discharged herself against the wishes of her doctors.

The Nurses Professional Association of Queensland, which represents more than 150 nurses in Townsville, has written to the Townsville Hospital and Health Service, asking for an explanation about the security lapses.

NPAQ state secretary Cath Seaver says threatening behaviour towards nurses is on the increase in all major hospitals.

"This has happened all over the state - and in at least one nursing home that I am aware of," she says.

If the nurses and doctors are unsafe, so, too, are their patients, Seaver says. The NPAQ was making a formal complaint to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Kirsten McAllister, the NPAQ Townsville branch secretary, says issues remain "unresolved".

"Photographic evidence of the drug paraphernalia has been circulating openly among your senior staff," she wrote.

 

NPAQ Townsville branch secretary Kirsten McAllister.
NPAQ Townsville branch secretary Kirsten McAllister.

 

McAllister declined to elaborate. Kieran Keyes, the chief executive of the Townsville Hospital and Health Service did not return calls.

However, Health Minister Stephen Miles says nurse safety is paramount.

"In response to security incidents at Townsville Hospital, we have employed six additional security officers and deployed body-worn cameras," he says.

"It shouldn't have to come to this, but if that's what it takes to make our nurses safe, it's what we will do."

Queensland Health figures show assaults and abuse have soared by 20 per cent in recent years. There have been attacks at Prince Charles, Royal Brisbane and Caboolture hospitals.

Logan Hospital also has a poor security record with more than two assaults or threats of violence there every week last year.

 

MINISTER SNARED IN ISLAND SAND TRAP

THE Palaszczuk Government has slapped a visitor ban on one of Queensland's most popular beauty spots in a secret deal with an Aboriginal clan of which Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch is a member.

Tourists to the Little Sandhills on Moreton Island are furious they are not being told the reason for the ban. And they have every right to be cranky.

Boaties who drop anchor near the shoreline of this great Brisbane getaway fear the entire island may be ruled out of bounds in a gesture to Aboriginal empowerment.

Tourists climbing the sand dunes at Moreton Island. Picture: Tourism and Events Queensland
Tourists climbing the sand dunes at Moreton Island. Picture: Tourism and Events Queensland

 

An imperiously worded sign at the sand pile reads: "A restricted access area has been declared over the Little Sandhills sand blow to protect and manage the cultural features and attributes of the area.

"Entry to Little Sandhills sand blow is prohibited without written approval.

"All current permits for the area are suspended.

"This is a joint initiative between the Quandamooka People and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service."

Enoch, who describes herself as a Nunukul-Nughi woman of the Quandamooka nation, refuses to comment.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environment and Science says the ban follows "a recent discovery of culturally and archaeologically significant items in the area". She refuses to say what the items are.

Yachtie Glenn Taylor, a retired television reader, says: "I don't know why we can't be told what it is they have found. Is it human remains?"

 

 

The sign at Little Sandhills on Moreton Island.
The sign at Little Sandhills on Moreton Island.

Taylor and fellow boat-lovers condemn the secretive way the ban was applied.

He asks if the move has set a precedent and wonders how many other parcels of land in Queensland have been declared out of bounds.

It's a fair question, so I asked the department. It refused to say.

However, the spokeswoman warns anyone trespassing on the site faces a maximum fine of $10,444.

 

PALASZCZUK POWER GRAB

THE State Government seems determined to extend a Marxist-style control over our daily lives. A new Bill introduced into Parliament recently seeks to tweak eight existing Acts to concentrate power at Palaszczuk Palace at 1 William St.

Everything from the Biosecurity Act to the Neighbourhood Disputes Act and the Building Act will be sliced and diced.

However, I expect changes to the Planning Act will have most impact.

The Local Government Association of Queensland rang alarm bells in its submission.

 

Local Government Association of Queensland boss Greg Hallam. Picture: Tim Marsden
Local Government Association of Queensland boss Greg Hallam. Picture: Tim Marsden

"The LGAQ is concerned this legislation further erodes the ability of councils and their communities to have a say in the size, shape, pace and development of their region," association chief executive Greg Hallam said.

"At a time when the community is acutely aware of the need for transparency and accountability in government decision making, the Bill strikes a worrying chord.

"Operation Belcarra has reminded us that all levels of government need to ensure that community trust was always front of mind."

The Queensland Law Society was critical of Labor's "farcical" approach in presenting the 224-page Bill with scant time to consider its impacts.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington. Picture: Brendan Radke
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington. Picture: Brendan Radke

 

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington says communities like Oxley will have less power to fight against PDA developments.

"Due to the record high 94 per cent infill rate set by the Labor Government, overdevelopment and congestion is causing havoc on the Brisbane way of life," she says.

 

LAMING SLIPS PAST ALP

I'M TOLD there was some unseemly behaviour at a public forum at Victoria Point in Redland City on Thursday night when a Labor staffer attempted to block entry to the room of popular Liberal member for Bowman Andrew Laming.

Bowman MP Andrew Laming. Picture: Kym Smith
Bowman MP Andrew Laming. Picture: Kym Smith

Undaunted, Laming slipped past and took a seat. "It was easy to go around because it was a double door," he tells me.

Laming had been accused of failing to RSVP. He showed me a message confirming he would attend - and offering to speak. "The delicious irony was that it was a law and order forum," he says.

FLUTE WINS WINE

MY CHALLENGE to Queensland poets to compile a suitable verse to honour Shakespeare, who was accused of misogyny, prompted Alex McCartney of Bardon to recall his junior schooldays at Brisbane Boys' College, where he played the role of Flute in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

McCartney wins a bottle of wine for this verse. Thanks to all who entered.

WHAT YOU WILL

Upon the stage

in Shakespeare's age

were mostly males

telling the tales.

So don't be too hard

when judging the Bard.

For his was a task

no other would ask.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

is such a scream.

There's plenty of wit;

especially the skit.

To Romeo's regret,

Lord Capulet

joined Juliet

whenever they met.

The Merchant of Venice

was such a menace;

made Antonio's flesh creep

and deprived him of sleep.

Alas poor Yorrick, the court fool

who, well before
Hamlet's rule

was able to jest

along with the best.

When Caesar cried
"Et tu Brute"

Brutus didn't give a hoot.

But it left the forum

just short of a quorum.

If a misogynist he be

as we now can see,

then what the hell;

All's Well That Ends Well.

If not As You Like It

Just merely strike it

from your play list.

You get the gist.



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