Emergency department worker sues Rocky hospital for $750k

A Yeppoon woman is suing Rockhampton Hospital for allegedly exposing her to physical and verbal abuse during her employment in the emergency department.

Christine Brett, 61, worked as an administration assistant in the emergency department from 2014 to 2017.

Ms Brett claims she was at times the first point of contact for injured persons and other members of the public, with patients in various states of emotional or physical distress, significant pain and suffering critical injuries with dismemberment, or suffering psychological or psychiatric condition episodes.

According to her claim lodged at the Rockhampton Supreme Court, Ms Brett alleged she was exposed to verbal aggression and physical violence and witnessed other staff members being abused.

One incident was a mock raid which was conducted in the emergency department, arranged by CQHHS for code black training.

Another visually graphic incident was when an employee of a sawmill had been crushed by a log.

The court documents detailed particular incidents of abuse and stated Ms Brett was regularly abused or spoken to in verbally aggressive manners or tones by patients or members of the public and exposed to scenes of mutilation of patients.

Ms Brett claimed Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service failed to provide a safe place of work, take any adequate precautions for herself, failed to attend to complaints she made about the abusive experience and didn’t provide any training, debriefing or support.

As a result of the incidents over the three year period, Ms Brett allegedly has post-traumatic distress disorder, anxiety and major depression.

For damages, Ms Brett is claiming $772,041.52.

CQHHS has filed a defence which argues it was not liable for Ms Brett’s safety and details the rosters of other medical staff in the emergency department.

CQHHS has claimed it “cannot control patients asking administrative staff for assistance”.

CQHHS argue it was not responsible for the personal injuries and detail policies, reporting and EAS assistance which were in place.

According to CQHHS, it had various meetings with Ms Brett during 2014, 2015 and 2017 about her concerns and offered the opportunity to work in another area of the hospital and Ms Brett was unwilling to do so as no other areas attracted the same penalty rates as the emergency department.

CQHHS admits Ms Brett has a psychiatric injury but denies it was developed as a result of work incidents in her employment.

The claim was filed in September by Grant and Simpsons Lawyers and CQHHS filed a final offer late in the month.

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