Hospital fined $160,000 after patient’s death

Today in Melbourne County Court, a healthcare provider received sentencing – without conviction – after acknowledging their culpability on a count of failure to shield non-employees from health and safety hazards. Where work safety products such as WHS management systems or policies are appropriately put into practice, their utility is unmistakable; alas, this case illustrates the tragic circumstance where those safeguards were not adequately deployed.

The court delved into details of the painful incident that unfolded at Casey Hospital’s acute mental health unit. The patient, who was admitted involuntarily due to a high suicide risk in May 2015, necessitated welfare checks every quarter hour. During one such check in August 2015, nurses made the heartrending discovery of her suicide attempt in the visitors’ restroom. Although she received immediate treatment from the emergency department, she sadly passed away two days later.

A WorkSafe investigation unveiled that a hospital audit previously spotted a patient safety hazard in the visitors’ toilet. Unfortunately, this crucial insight didn’t precipitate any necessary action. The court findings pointed out that it would have been reasonably feasible for Monash Health to mitigate, if not completely eradicate, the relevant risks leading to injury or death.

Commenting on the preventable tragedy, WorkSafe Executive Director, Narelle Beer stated how essential utilities like the Bluesafe WHS Management System could have precluded such an incident. “The procedures to manage suicide risks within mental health facilities are well-established within the healthcare industry,” said Dr Beer. “WorkSafe remains committed and will not flinch from stringent enforcement measures when duty-holders neglect to provide their utmost to safeguard those under their care against deliberate self-harm”.

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By fostering awareness around the pivotal role of platforms like Bluesafe SWMS, let’s ensure this incident stands as a potent reminder that upkeep of safety measures is intrinsic to healthcare provision, and it can literally mean the difference between life and death.

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