Deputy Premier stands ground against threats of lawsuit
DEPUTY Premier and Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles has responded to threats of a lawsuit against him, saying litigants for the Rockhampton nurse who was reported to have gone to work while infectious with COVID-19, were “welcome to take whatever action they think is appropriate”.
“But I stand by our actions,” he said, “which were to put the safety and the interests of the community first and foremost, and we’ll continue to do so.”
The nurse, who worked at the North Rockhampton Nursing Home in Norman Gardens, tested positive for the virus in May, but continued to work.
Queensland Health Director-General Dr John Wakefield said earlier this month an investigation found the nurse did not breach directions.
“The investigation also found the public health response to the case was appropriate, with health officials working extremely well and conscientiously to prevent an outbreak at the centre,” he said.
The Nurses’ Professional Association of Queensland, which has 6,000 members, today said through Eaglegate Lawyers that Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Mr Miles, and Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young could all potentially face defamation complaints over their comments about the health worker.
It said the nurse was “made the scapegoat for problems at a Rockhampton North aged care home and wrongly blamed for a COVID outbreak scare and death earlier this year”.
Brisbane-based Eaglegate lawyer Nicole Murdoch said the health worker never received an apology from State Government officials.
“The aged care nurse was also referred to the Crime and Corruption Commission amid claims she put 115 residents and 180 nursing centre workers at risk,” she said.
“Subsequently it was proved the nurse did nothing wrong but was made a scapegoat for wider COVID control failures at the North Rockhampton Nursing Centre.”
Ms Murdoch claimed there were also breaches of workplace and privacy laws.
She said despite the nurse seeking anonymity in the matter, a defamation action might still be feasible.
“In defamation actions,” Ms Murdoch said, “to defame a person, the person must be identified or identifiable in the publication.
“The nurse does not need to be expressly identified, but she can prove that people who knew her likely connected her as the person who the publication referred to.
“I would argue that her name is not ‘at large’ but rather, those in Rocky will know who the government spokespeople were referencing or be able to work it out.
“And her colleagues would know who she is, especially as the aged care centre where she worked has been publicly identified.”