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A South Australian nurse who was knocked unconscious by a patient, turned purple and had no pulse before needing to be revived by a doctor has ignited calls by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) for urgent action on rising occupational violence across the state’s hospitals.


According to the union, the female nurse was found unconscious on the floor of the elderly male patient’s room at Modbury Hospital last Sunday afternoon.

A doctor had to administer CPR and revive her, then she was admitted to the emergency department before being discharged the following day.

In the wake of the violent assault, the latest in a series of incidents across Adelaide’s hospitals, the ANMF (SA Branch) has called on SA Health to intervene in order to protect nurses across the state’s northern hospitals.

A letter written by ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adjunct Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars addressed to SA Health CEO Dr Chris McGowan outlines the incident and seeks commitment for improved measures to address the risk of violence “as a matter of urgency”.

The union says the patient who attacked the nurse was transferred to Lyell McEwin Hospital but its staff were not immediately told about the assault, nor earlier abuse committed by the patient, who has severe dementia, including spitting at staff.

Ms Dabars said just as alarming as the attack was the failure by the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network (NALHN) to offer support to the nurse following the incident, with management making no contact after her release from hospital.

The patient is also being provided with care in a treatment room at Lyell McEwin which is poorly designed and ill-equipped to meet care needs, yet the hospital won’t budge on providing additional nursing staff, Ms Dabars added.

“This is yet another case where the local managers are clearly failing to meet their duty of care to their nursing staff,” she said.

“The Chief Executive of SA health is the legal employer for the purposes of workplace health and safety. Given the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network’s terrible track record in recent times we believe that delegation of responsibility for compliance on work and health safety should be revoked and SA Health take direct responsibility for ensuring that staff are working in a safe environment.”

The union said the severe attack follows the release of an updated policy framework for challenging behaviours partly triggered by its campaign for action to address workplace violence.

“The proposed policy aligns well with the 10-point plan to eliminate violence released by the ANMF (SA Branch) in 2019 – but we remain concerned by the absence of firm requirements for Local Health Networks to implement in full the policies as rapidly as possible.

“It’s clear that without adequate action by the NALHN in this case that we cannot trust local managers to act without clear direction and accountability. We need SA Health and the Health Minister (Stephen Wade) to act to protect staff and the patients who are vulnerable,” Ms Dabars said.