Nurse scalded by patient had route of escape blocked
As scalding hot water seared through her skin after being thrown on her, a nurse was forced to wait as a patient blocked the only way out.
Now she is calling for an independent investigation on the safety of the Hillmorton Hospital facilities.
The nurse, who works at the adult mental-health facility in Christchurch, suffered second-degree burns to the upper left side of her chest and arm when a female patient poured boiling water on to her in a nurses’ station room.
The incident happened about two weeks ago at the hospital; which has been plagued with incidents involving nurses being injured.
Last Sunday, another nurse was stabbed, apparently with what is understood to have been surgical scissors.
Yesterday, police were called to the unit after a staff member was assaulted and needed hospital treatment. Police said the person was injured after being punched.
Speaking to the Weekend Herald, the burned nurse described the terrifying wait she had to endure immediately after the incident.
“I was delayed in getting treatment for my burns because there is only one door in the nurses’ station,” she said. “After the patient had thrown the boiling water on me, she blocked the doorway.
“There was no way for me to leave to get help or first aid until the nursing staff came and moved the patient.”
The lack of exits had been an ongoing concern for nurses, she said, and they had requested another door in the nurses’ station. They were told it would be too expensive, she said.
“A year ago, a patient pushed a couch in front of the door, blocking it, then set it on fire.
“The nurse had no escape. She wasn’t hurt because our nursing team are fantastic. We have to be.”
The nurse said she was the second person to suffer burns from having boiling water thrown at them by a patient.
As a result of the first incident, the temperature on a hot water zip machine was changed in that particular ward, but not in the others, she said.
“They knew there was a serious risk and hazard to both staff and patients but failed to correct it. Very few other hospitals allow zips on the wards for this reason.”
Speaking up about patient-on-nurse violence was not about making it out to be a divisive patients versus nurses issue, she said. Instead, nurses wanted the public to know what was happening in the mental-health system and for those in management positions to hear their calls for better safety measures in wards.
She said the nurses dealt with violence on a daily basis as well as occasionally with patients who had bought drugs from other patients.
They also had to deal with having to face a patient who had earlier assaulted them, been charged by police, then sent back to Hillmorton.
In last week’s stabbing case, the 42-year-old charged with intent to injure has since been remanded back to the facility.
“I believe it is unacceptable to use hospitals as a place to leave remand prisoners,” the nurse said.
Among her recommendations were to bring in dedicated security staff on wards.
“It is very hard to build a therapeutic and healing relationship with patients when days before you may have had to restrain them due to a drug-induced psychotic event where they are hurting themselves and other patients.
“Patient-on-patient violence is an almost daily occurrence on the wards and sometimes nurses feel more like prison guards than the caring and concerned nurses we are.”
She said security guards were posted on wards in Australia so that dangerous behaviour was dealt with swiftly and nurses could focus on doing their job.
“The mental-health system and current facilities and policies are hurting everyone involved and now we need to come together to fight for change.”
The attacks come as the Report of the Government Inquiry to Mental Health and Addiction was released this week. One of its recommendations was the need to implement a national suicide prevention strategy.
Canterbury District Health Board chief David Meates met mental-health nurses at Hillmorton to discuss safety concerns.
In a statement he said he was extremely concerned about the latest assaults on staff and that a review would be carried out to understand the circumstances and also what could be done to reduce the chance of a recurrence.
This nurse suffered second-degree burns when a patient poured boiling water on her.