Hospi­tal worker as­saults teen pa­tient

District health board re­fuses to an­swer ques­tions on case be­cause worker was a con­trac­tor

Weekend Herald - - FRONT PAGE - David Fisher

Avul­ner­a­ble teenager was in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched in Auck­land City Hospi­tal by a worker who al­legedly car­ried out sim­i­lar at­tacks on an un­known num­ber of other pa­tients.

He was even­tu­ally stopped after the teenager made a po­lice com­plaint and se­cu­rity staff iden­ti­fied the man through CCTV footage of an as­sault on an­other per­son, her par­ents have al­leged.

The April 28 at­tack on the teenage girl, who was at Auck­land City Hospi­tal re­ceiv­ing men­tal health care, had such an im­pact that it was fol­lowed by a sui­cide at­tempt, her par­ents say.

They say they have been told by other hospi­tal nurs­ing and se­cu­rity staff that the man had al­legedly car­ried out sev­eral other as­saults on pa­tients.

“This guy i s an ab­so­lute preda­tor,” said the girl’s fa­ther. “The DHB has been ter­ri­ble. They have swept it un­der the car­pet.

“The se­cu­rity peo­ple had com­plaints from other pa­tients that this guy had touched peo­ple in­ap­pro­pri­ately.

“It wasn’t un­til we made an of­fi­cial com­plaint that it came out they were aware this guy was do­ing th­ese things in the hospi­tal.

“The se­cu­rity team was aware of some­one do­ing this. No one had made an of­fi­cial com­plaint to the po­lice so no one took any ac­tion.”

The Weekend Her­ald has con­firmed that the man re­cently pleaded guilty to as­sault­ing the teenager. He will be sen­tenced next month.

The num­ber of the at­tacks car­ried out by the man is un­known. Auck­land District Health Board re­fused to an­swer ques­tions on the ba­sis the man was a tem­po­rary con­trac­tor.

It has also re­fused to an­swer ques­tions about the ac­tions of its se­cu­rity com­pany and whether there was in­for­ma­tion which would have meant the man could have been stopped be­fore he as­saulted the teenager.

In­stead, me­dia spokes­woman Sarah Bakker said the man “was not ac­tu­ally an Auck­land DHB em­ployee, they were a temp con­tracted by Al­pha Re­cruit­ment”.

“Be­cause of this, it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for us to com­ment, ex­cept to say that we take the safety of our pa­tients, vis­i­tors and staff very se­ri­ously, and we have zero tol­er­ance for in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour.”

The hospi­tal has sent a let­ter of apol­ogy to the fam­ily.

Pa­tient Man­age­ment Ser­vices di­rec­tor Alex Pimm wrote say­ing: “On be­half of Auck­land DHB I would like to apol­o­gise to you and your daugh­ter for the events that took place on Auck­land DHB’s hospi­tal site.” The girl’s mother told the Week

end Her­ald the man as­saulted her daugh­ter twice al­though the mother was un­aware un­til after the sec­ond as­sault.

The mother said they first en­coun­tered the man while wait­ing for an el­e­va­tor in the main hospi­tal build­ing.

The mother was on crutches and her daugh­ter had her hands full hold­ing a tray with cof­fee.

After the doors closed, it is al­leged the man in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched her daugh­ter al­though it was dis­missed as ac­ci­den­tal con­tact.

But the man later joined them in a sec­ond lift.

At the end of that el­e­va­tor jour­ney, the man in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched the girl again. The man­ner of the as­sault left no doubt it was de­lib­er­ate, the mother said.

The mother had walked ahead of the teen but heard her daugh­ter shout: “What the hell?”

“She caught up to me and she was tear­ing up, re­ally up­set. I said ‘ what’s hap­pened’, and she told me im­me­di­ately, ‘ he touched me’.

“He had touched her in the first set of lifts but she had given him the ben­e­fit of the doubt. Then he did it again and that’s when she knew it was de­lib­er­ate.”

It was re­ported to a nurse and se­cu­rity was called, with the pair asked if they wanted to make a po­lice com­plaint.

Staff told her “se­cu­rit y was aware of an in­di­vid­ual and there had been pre­vi­ous com­plaints about an in­di­vid­ual”.

“But se­cu­rity’s po­si­tion was that the peo­ple who had com­plained weren’t pre­pared to make a po­lice re­port so their hands were tied and they couldn’t do any­thing.”

It took t wo weeks for po­lice to track down the man by study­ing CCTV after an as­sault on an­other per­son, the par­ents al­lege.

Dur­ing that time, in the wake of the as­sault, their daugh­ter tried to take her life.

“The in­ci­dents are def­i­nitely linked. We were on a re­ally good path be­fore the as­sault,” the teen’s mother said.

The girl who was as­saulted was one of many young peo­ple in­ter­viewed as part of the Her­ald’s Break The Si­lence se­ries. The se­ries aimed to start a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about New Zealand’s shock­ing youth

sui­cide

rate and how we are try­ing to tackle it.

Her mes­sage was one of hope after mul­ti­ple men­tal health ad­mis­sions and re­peated at­tempts to end her life.

The fa­ther of the girl said the as­sault had a huge im­pact on the girl, who has men­tal health is­sues and was re­ceiv­ing care after a num­ber of sui­cide at­tempts.

Since the as­sault and sui­cide at­tempt, she has sought fur­ther med­i­cal care after de­vel­op­ing an eating dis­or­der.

“The whole last two years have been shit,” said the fa­ther. “Men­tal health ser­vices are a joke in this coun­try. It sucks that the hospi­tal has done noth­ing for my daugh­ter.”

Al­pha Re­cruit­ment man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Colin Mathieson said he did not have the an­swers to the ques­tions the health board would not an­swer.

“I am dev­as­tated to hear what he did in the lift. That is ap­palling.”

Mathieson said he was called by the health board after his em­ployee had been iden­ti­fied and de­tained by se­cu­rity.

Pic­ture / Doug Sher­ring

The at­tack on the teenage girl at Auck­land City Hospi­tal was fol­lowed by a sui­cide at­tempt, her par­ents say.

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