Mental patient attacks nurse

2016-05-19 13:31

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Pietermaritzburg - Two recent incidents involving psychiatric patients at Northdale Hospital have left staff on edge and a nurse recovering after being assaulted with a pipe.

Some staff say they fear for their lives, and are pinning the blame on hospital management for allegedly housing psychiatric patients in a general medical ward.

Multiple sources at the hospital yesterday described how a female nurse was assaulted by a male psychiatric patient at the hospital’s G ward — which according to the sources is a standard medical ward not equipped to treat psychiatric patients — on Friday.

“The patient became highly volatile and assaulted the nurse with what looked like a steel pipe. I do not know where he got the pipe from, but it could have been broken off from one of the bed posts,” a source said.

“The nurse has not returned to work since the incident. She was hurt very badly.”

In another incident in the same ward on Tuesday night, another psychiatric patient went on a rampage and tried to escape the facility by climbing into the ceiling.

“The patient vandalised the ward and got into the ceiling, where he damaged water pipes. Now [yesterday] the ward has no hot water,” a source said.

According to the sources, the hospital’s H ward, which is categorised as the psychiatric facility, can only hold 10 patients. When the ward becomes inundated, some psychiatric patients are accommodated with medical patients in the G ward.

“The G ward is not fit to accommodate psychiatric patients and neither are the staff who work in that ward. Those staff are not safe,” the source said. “We have taken up this issue with management before, but they have done nothing.”

Health Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi confirmed that a nurse was assaulted by a patient.

“It should be noted that all possible mental health patients are admitted under the Mental Care Act, which requires that they be observed over 72 hours to exclude any general mental conditions, as per the Mental Healthcare User Act,” he said.

“Once a patient has been observed by a medical team and no general medical condition has been found, they get referred to a psychiatric team and kept at ward H. Based on the outcome of an evaluation, they either get sent to Town Hill Hospital or discharged.”

National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) regional secretary Zimasile Giyama said if it was true that psychiatric patients were being “mixed” with medical patients, then the department and hospital management were “reckless and behaving irresponsibly”.

“If true, the union condemns this action and we will investigate these allegations further,” Giyama said.

In an unrelated incident in Limpopo on Thursday last week, a mental patient attacked and killed a nurse at the Hayani Psychiatric Hospital near Thohoyandou.

News24 reported that the patient, who had been admitted to the prisoners’ ward, used a manhole cover to hit the 52-year-old nurse.

The hospital’s CCTV footage showed the man sneaking up behind her, hitting her with the cover, throwing it down and then strangling her. He was arrested shortly after.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  health  |  mental health  |  attack

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