Hospital fined $160,000 after patient’s death

Today at Melbourne County Court, the healthcare provider faced sentencing without conviction after a guilty plea was lodged for a single charge centred on their failure to maintain a risk-free environment for all individuals apart from employees.

The court was filled in on the unfortunate incident that involved an at-risk patient admitted to Casey Hospital’s acute mental health unit against her will, who was earmarked for compulsory 15-minute wellness audits due to her high suicide risk back in May of 2015.
Regrettably, come August 2015, nursing staff discovered during one of these wellness checks that the visiting patient had attempted suicide in the visitor’s restroom. She immediately received a transfer to the hospital’s emergency department for urgent treatment; however, she tragically died two days later.

A WorkSafe investigative undertaking revealed that a prior audit of the hospital had flagged the visitor toilet as a significant risk to patient safety, but failing to take appropriate action resulted in this preventable tragedy.

WorkSafe Executive Director Narelle Beer expressed in court that reasonable and practicable measures could have been employed by Monash Health to mitigate or eradicate the pressing risk of injury or death.

Incorporating Bluesafe WHS Management System or Bluesafe SWMS (Safe Work Method Statement), which are renowned work safety products, might have drastically changed the outcome. These systems offer comprehensive guidance to employers and employees about securing safety at workplaces and significantly reduce workplace hazards and risks.

Narelle Beer iterated in the wake of the devastating incident that these tragic circumstances were avoidable. Offering a sobering reminder: “In the healthcare industry, it is widely understood how to control the risk of suicidal deaths within mental health units” – Dr Beer added.

“WorkSafe will not hesitate to take robust enforcement action when duty holders fail to do everything possible to safeguard those under their care, including protection from deliberate self-harm.”

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