New allegations of historic sexual abuse at Launceston General Hospital

Five minutes of alleged sexual abuse perpetrated against Ben Felton when he was only 13 has had a profound impact on the now 44-year-old’s entire life.

The alleged incident at the Launceston General Hospital, paired with what Mr Felton described as the protection of the nurse he accused of abusing him, has destroyed his trust in others, deeply affected his mental health and left him unable to bathe his own children or leave them unattended.

“It hurt, it shattered a lot of things,” Mr Felton said.

In 1989, teenage Mr Felton was admitted to the LGH paediatric ward with pneumonia.

Mr Felton alleges that when he asked for a glass of water one evening, the male nurse took him into a hospital kitchenette and “in his sick mind, decided to indulge himself”.

“I feel guilty, it made me feel dirty, and I don’t know how to comprehend it,” Mr Felton said.

Ben has sought the paperwork in his case, but records relating to allegations of child abuse are consistent only from 2002 onwards.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Records show the incident was reported by Mr Felton’s parents to hospital management and the nurse was moved to another role within the Tasmanian Health Service.

Mr Felton has repeatedly sought an apology and an explanation for what he alleges happened to him as a child.

He battled for years for the paperwork on his case, but Tasmania Police records relating to allegations of child abuse are consistent only from 2002 onwards.

Asked about the allegations, a State Government spokesman said: “The Tasmanian Government has stood down 13 state service employees in response to allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct in recent months”.

“It is fundamental that investigations are not prejudiced, as well as the need to acknowledge that legal considerations demand that no further comment can be made on these matters.

‘This is not about bad apples, we have to start looking at the tree’

Freelance journalist Camille Bianchi has shone a light on Mr Felton’s allegations in her latest episode of investigative podcast The Nurse.

Season one of her series focused on allegations against another male nurse at Launceston’s tertiary hospital — James Geoffrey Griffin.

Launceston General Hospital.
The Tasmanian Government is dealing with the fallout over allegations of sexual misconduct in the public service.(ABC News: Michael Brooks)

Mr Griffin, a paediatric nurse, took his own life in 2019 after being charged with multiple child sex offences.

“There are deeply troubling patterns of behaviour by hospital colleagues and management in [Mr Felton’s] story that I saw last year in investigating Griffin’s abuses on ward 4K,” Bianchi said.

“I felt a sense of urgency in publishing this ahead of the commission of inquiry, because it is increasingly clear this is not about bad apples, we have to start looking at the tree.”

Ben Felton displays his arm tattoo.
Ben said he’d had a “very interesting life” and the “five minutes in that hospital kitchen” has had the biggest effect on his life.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

The commission of inquiry — Tasmania’s version of a royal commission — will examine how state government agencies have responded to historical allegations of child sexual abuse.

The Health Department’s handling of the allegations against Griffin have been singled out for particular attention.

“There will be emails and calls from distressed families who are now wondering if their child was targeted while they were in hospital, and I’ll have to say, ‘I don’t know’.”

A State Government spokesman said: “From a public interest perspective, the Tasmanian community can be assured that anyone in the care of a government agency are safe as the individuals have been stood down and appropriate assessment and further action taken.

“This matter was referred to Tasmania Police for investigation at the time of the allegation. No charges were laid.”

Mr Felton said the scars were long lasting.

“I have self-harmed, self-medicated, I have tried to run away,” he said.

“I’ve had a very interesting life, and that little five minutes in that hospital kitchen has had the biggest effect on my entire life.”

Thank you for stopping by to visit My Local Pages and checking this news release regarding TAS and Australian news titled “New allegations of historic sexual abuse at Launceston General Hospital”. This news update was posted by MyLocalPages Australia as part of our national news services.

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Dwayne, Dermott, two Chiko Rolls and a cold Launceston afternoon: What could go wrong?

It can get pretty cold in Tasmania in the peak of winter, especially up in a broadcast booth open to the elements.

SEN’s Dwayne Russell found a creative solution to the Tassie chill, however, buying Chiko Rolls and stuffing them in his pockets to keep his hands warm.

“We were in Launceston, it was a really cold day broadcasting the footy, Dermott Brereton and Dennis Cometti were broadcasting that day with me,” Russell told SEN’s Dwayne’s World.

“It was freezing and I was really cold and there was no closed window on the broadcast box so the breeze was coming through.

“So I bought a couple of Chiko Rolls and put them in my pockets, warming my hands during the broadcast.”

Of course, Brereton would not allow the food to go to waste, despite spending an hour in Russell’s pockets.

“The heat went out of them by half-time, so I pulled them out of my pockets because they weren’t warm anymore and put them on the desk,” Russell added.

“Dermott looked at me and said, ‘what’s that?’ and I said, ‘it’s a Chiko Roll I’ve had in my pockets to keep my hands warm’ and he said, ‘are you going to eat it?’ and I said ‘no!’ and he ate it at half-time.”

Brereton has been reached for comment*.

*Not really.

We hope you enjoyed checking this news release on current Australian Sports news titled “Dwayne, Dermott, two Chiko Rolls and a cold Launceston afternoon: What could go wrong?”. This post was posted by My Local Pages Australia as part of our local news services.

#Dwayne #Dermott #Chiko #Rolls #cold #Launceston #afternoon #wrong

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German man Tobias Pick charged over Launceston murder on Boxing Day

Police have released the name of a German man charged with murdering a 49-year-old woman on Boxing Day in Launceston.

Tobias Pick, 27, has been charged with one count of murder and one count of stealing.

In a statement, Tasmania Police said: “Tobias is from Germany and has been in Australia on a working visa for at least several months.”

Police were called to a Wellington St home after the woman’s body was discovered in a bedroom about 8:30pm on Saturday.

A witness, police and paramedics unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the woman.

A 25-year-old woman also arrested in relation to the alleged murder was later released.

Police said Mr Pick has been remanded in custody to reappear in court again on Wednesday.

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Man charged with murder over woman’s body found in central Launceston home

A German man has been charged with the murder of a 49-year-old woman discovered dead on Boxing Day in a home in central Launceston.

In a statement late on Monday, Tasmania Police detective inspector Craig Fox said the 27-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman had been arrested in relation to the alleged murder, but the woman was released unconditionally.

“The man was interviewed and charged with murder,” Mr Fox said.

Police were called to a Wellington Street home after the woman’s body was discovered in a bedroom about 8:30pm on Saturday.

A witness, police and paramedics tried to resuscitate the woman.

The home has since been examined by Tasmania Police and Forensic Services Tasmania.

Police had appealed for dash-cam footage from the busy Launceston street.

The man will appear in the Launceston Court of Petty Sessions on Monday night.

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Tasmanian coroner finds 2017 deaths of sisters Ruby and Shanzel Brewer, near Launceston, were an ‘avoidable tragedy’

A Tasmanian coroner has described the death of two sisters in a shed fire in 2017 as an “indescribable, but avoidable tragedy”.

Ruby Brewer and her sister Shanzel were just 13 and 11 years old when the shed they were sleeping in caught fire and burnt to the ground.

At the time of their deaths, the girls were living on a 3.1-hectare rural block in Turners Marsh, north of Launceston.

The block of land was owned by Kristy Seymour, who had built the shed in 2009 with her then-partner Shaun Holden. They did not have a council planning or building permit.

In his report, coroner Simon Cooper noted that at the time it was built, Ms Seymour was “operating the property as some type of foster home”.

He said it was evident that Child and Family Services was aware that children placed under her care would be living in a shed, and had “actively encouraged the construction of the shed and provided financial assistance” with building costs.

The 6 x 6-metre galvanised shed was lined with pine panelling and separated into two bedrooms and a lounge-type area. It had no water or plumbing and had only one entrance.

Concerns over electrical work

The electrical works were done by Bryan Pike, a man who, at the time, “did not hold the necessary licence to perform electrical work of the type carried out” at the property,” Magistrate Cooper said.

In 2013, he was investigated by a regulator for performing unlicensed electrical work and was cautioned. He would later refuse to cooperate with the coronial investigation.

In December 2015, Clifford Brewer moved into the property, unofficially leasing it from Ms Seymour, with his partner, the three children they shared, an 18-year-old family friend and Ruby and Shanzel — his daughters from a previous relationship.

Ruby and Shanzel had been living in the shed for a year. Ruby slept in the front room, Shanzel in the rear. The rest of the family were sleeping in the main house.

On the evening of Saturday, June 10, 2017, the girls ate their evening meal in the main house before eventually returning to the shed to go bed.

Neither girl was seen alive again.

Ruby and Shanzel Brewer died after the shed they were sleeping in caught fire in June 2017.(ABC News: Carla Howarth)

Just after 2:30am, a neighbour called emergency services to report what he thought was a bushfire.

It would take almost another hour for fire crews to arrive on the scene.

By that time, the shed had burnt to the ground and both girls were dead.

While Magistrate Cooper described the response time as “poor”, he said that the evidence did not suggest an earlier arrival would have altered the outcome.

When the girls’ bodies were recovered, they were so badly burnt that they had to be identified using a combination of DNA analysis and forensic dental examination.

A forensic pathologist concluded that both girls died as a result of asphyxia due to smoke inhalation.

The fire investigation concluded that the fire was caused by either an electrical fault, which caused the combustible materials in the shed to ignite, or from the introduction of a mobile ignition source, such as a candle.

There was no evidence that a smoke detector or detectors had been installed in the shed. During the inquest, Mr Brewer suggested that the fitting of smoke detectors was the responsibility of the property owner.

Tributes at funeral of Lilydale sisters Ruby and Shanzel Brewer
Tributes at Ruby and Shanzel Brewer’s funeral.(ABC News: Emilie Gramenz)

Defects indicated ‘dangerous standard’ of electrical work

Magistrate Cooper said a further investigation of the electrical works was unable to determine the cause, however, a number of defects were found.

“It is evident that the most likely source of the fire, which incinerated Ruby and Shanzel, was electrical.”

The coronial investigation revealed that Mr Brewer and his family had had ongoing issues with the electrical supply at the property.

Various people including the landowner’s son, her boyfriend, and Mr Brewer took a “look at the problem”. None of them had any electrical qualifications.

When Ms Seymour sent a qualified electrician to look at the main home in May 2017, about a month before the girls’ death, the coroner’s report said Mr Brewer declined his offer to look at the shed.

Magistrate Cooper concluded his inquest by saying the girls’ deaths were avoidable.

“Coroners, fire authorities and safety experts have repeatedly warned about the need for properly operating smoke detectors to be installed in homes.

“I recommend that every home occupier install and maintain properly operating smoke detectors, especially in rooms where people are sleeping.”

Fire crews at the scene of the fatal fire in Turners Marsh.
Fire crews at the scene of the fatal fire in Turners Marsh in June 2017.(ABC News)

He also said it was “quite clear that the electrical work at the property was dangerous”.

“The ultimate responsibility for this rests with Ms Seymour,” Magistrate Cooper wrote.

“It is also quite clear that Mr Brewer had attempted to do electrical work himself and declined the assistance of a qualified electrician.

“I comment that no-one should ever carry out electrical work of any kind unless they are properly qualified and licensed to do so.”

As no-one was able to determine the actual source of the electrical fire, Mr Cooper made no finding identifying any person as being responsible for the deaths of Ruby and Shanzel.

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Tasmanian bicycle collector’s daughter hopes Launceston bike museum can re-open

When Graham Austin — inventor, bicycle maker and church pastor — opened a bike museum in Launceston, Tasmania, he welcomed in schoolkids and the community.

Now, a decade after the museum was closed, his daughter hopes the intact collection, which is tucked away in an old high school building in the Launceston suburb of Ravenswood, can be revived and opened for public viewing.

More than 300 bicycles are on display, but since Mr Austin died in 2011 they have mainly been collecting dust.

“It’s actually a whole lifetime of collection,” his daughter, Merrilyn Billing, said.

Bikes similar to this were used for tree pruning… riders could turn them on their side and have an instant ladder.(ABC Tasmania: Manika Champ)

“He would go to auctions to try and find something he didn’t have, and he would then bid for it and put it with his collection.”

Mr Austin opened the museum in the Zions Hill Church at Ravenswood — about 10 minutes from Launceston’s city centre — in the early 2000s.

“He moved out to an area with a lot of needs and used to take people out on bike rides,” Ms Billing said.

“When he first opened it, school groups came in and had a look, and children from the community used to bring in their bikes for him to repair.”

A black motorcycle in a dark room under a spotlight
The bike museum features old and modern bikes that are all still on display(ABC Tasmania: Mitchell Woolnough)

Mr Austin also made his own bikes, called Ausso bikes.

A bunch of red, blue and yellow bicycles in a group
The museum’s founder Graham Austin made his own bicycles called Ausso bikes(ABC Tasmania: Manika Champ)

“He used to take little bits and pieces and make crazy sort of bikes and little penny farthings and all of that.

“One time, years ago, he built a fun park down the West Tamar, down on the wetlands, and that’s where he used to bring out all his contraptions.”

‘Waiting for the right people’ to reopen it

Many bikes at the Zions Hill Bike Museum were made in Tasmania, while others were from around the world.

A bike ridden by retired Australian track cyclist Danny Clark in his early days hangs in the “hall of fame” section of the museum.

A whole range of different bikes in a big room
There are more than 300 bikes in the museum, including an old McKinlays Department Store delivery bike.(ABC Tasmania: Manika Champ)

Other bikes, including an old McKinlay’s Department Store delivery bike — a store once in Launceston’s Brisbane Street mall — were donated.

“He wanted the public to see what was here,” Ms Billing said.

Ms Billing said the museum had only opened for special occasions or organised group events since Mr Austin died.

An old bike with big wheels handing on a green wall
This old Maxwell bike was ridden by retired former Australian cyclist Danny Clark, who went on to win five world championships.(ABC Tasmania: Manika Champ)

She said the family had decided against selling any of the bikes in the collection, despite the museum remaining closed.

She said her father would have loved to see his bike legacy live on.

“I think he’d love to see it actually there for the public again,” Ms Billing said.

“So we’ve still got it here, I guess, waiting for the right people to come and help make it happen.”

An old sign with the words "care shop and bike museum" under dark cloudy sky
The bike museum sign remains despite it not being open to the public since 2011.(ABC Tasmania: Mitch Woolnough)

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Foundry school at centre of $90m Launceston creative precinct evicted for unpaid rent

A private education company working with Launceston City Council on a $90 million CBD creative precinct has been kicked out of its premises for failing to pay rent.

Information obtained by the ABC shows Foundry is $83,614 behind on its rental payments for its Cameron Street facility, and has not made any payments for more than seven months.

Staff who arrived for work on Wednesday were greeted with a sign at the door saying “the property owner has re-entered and taken back possession of this property as at 4 November 2020”.

It is understood the landlord has taken back possession of the property multiple times since 2017, and has now changed the locks.

Foundry, which also has a campus in Hobart, has been touted as the centrepiece of Launceston’s proposed $90 million creative precinct project, which was announced in June.

Foundry director Chris Billing also the sole director of Creative Property Holdings, the company behind the precinct. The project also includes a bus exchange.

The Federal Government has awarded the Launceston City Council a $10m drought recovery grant specifically to help build the creative precinct.

But a Launceston City Council spokesman told the ABC it was not true the federal government funding would assist with building Creative Property Holdings’ proposal, despite inviting Mr Billing to appear at a press conference announcing the funding and the company’s inclusion in media releases associated with the project.

Mayor Albert van Zetten said the council had been in contact with Foundry about its eviction.

“In respect to the Creative Industries Precinct, the council is dealing with Creative Holdings Pty Ltd and their financiers,” Mr van Zetten said.

“The council remains confident that the external funding commitments are in place, however we will be seeking further assurances from the entities involved.

“The council has legal protections in place around its ability to develop a bus interchange on the site and remains committed to this project.”

Earlier this year the ABC revealed Foundry staff had not paid staff, and had not properly paid superannuation for several years.

‘No evidence’ for coronavirus rental protections: lawyers

Foundry has campuses in Launceston and Hobart.(Instagram: Foundry)

There are protections against eviction for commercial tenants suffering hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, lawyers acting for the owner of the Cameron Street property have written to Foundry saying no evidence has been provided to show it is eligible for those protections.

“More particularly, you have supplied no evidence that the company, as tenant, is entitled under the JobKeeper Rules and is an SME entity for the purpose of the economic response package legislation,” the letter from law firm FitzGerald and Browne said.

“Demonstrating the company’s entitlement for a JobKeeper payment or its qualification for the JobKeeper Scheme would have been a simple process.

“But you have chosen to ignore my correspondence.”

The letter said requests for financial information from Foundry had been made, but the company had refused to provide it.

It asked Foundry to get in touch to discuss the removal of its possessions from the building, and said continued tenancy could be negotiated on the basis that six months’ rent was paid in advance and three months’ rent was held by the real estate agent as a bond.

“The tenancy cannot be leased to you until a fresh lease is signed by the tenant and guarantor,” the letter said.

Mr Billing said Foundry was eligible for JobKeeper and that he had provided proof to the landlord’s lawyer.

He said the media attention on the issue was “highly inappropriate” and he expected no further coverage.

“So many businesses are going through difficult times at the moment and, just like us, are working through these matters with their landlords under the coronavirus tenancy protection legislation,” Mr Billing said.

“I have to ask why we have been singled out of the thousands of businesses going through these difficult times and the rental relief process.

“This inappropriate media attention places undue stress on students who have already had a difficult year and are heading into their end of year assessments, and the hard working staff of Foundry.”

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Tasmanian Government investigates allegations of child sex abuse against dead Launceston nurse James Griffin

The Tasmanian Government has launched an independent investigation into a deceased former employee of the Launceston General Hospital (LGH), in relation to child sex abuse allegations.

Premier Peter Gutwein said he was “appalled at the concerning and very serious allegations” that had been made against former nurse James ‘Jim’ Geoffrey Griffin.

“All members of community must do everything in their power to protect children and prevent child abuse from occurring and there is no excuse for failure to report the abuse of children,” he said.

According to his Linkedin page, Mr Griffin had been a registered nurse in Tasmania for about 19 years.

Sarah Courtney (left, with Peter Gutwein) says the investigation will have her full support.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

Health Minister Sarah Courtney said the Legana man had been subject to a Tasmania Police investigation, which resulted in charges being laid in October last year — the same month Mr Griffin died.

Ms Courtney said following media reports last week she had asked her department’s secretary to investigate policies and procedures relating to abuse.

She said further information regarding the employee had since “come to light”, prompting the Government to launch the independent investigation.

“I want to reassure Tasmanians that the independent investigation has my and the Government’s full support and will have all the resources it requires to properly investigate this matter.

“The Tasmanian Government strongly believes that any act of child sexual abuse is unacceptable and we take these matters very seriously.”

She said the Tasmanian Health Service (THS) had encouraged staff to come forward with any details that might help police, as well as setting up a contact point for members of the public.

“Anybody in Tasmania who has been the subject of abuse, I think our whole community has a responsibility to make sure they’re protected.

“As Minister for Health I absolutely apologise to any victim both now and in the past.

“I’m committed to this process and I’m committed to making sure that our systems in Government are as safe at they can be.”

She said the Government had yet to determine the scope of the investigation and what the appropriate mechanisms would be, and more would be known in coming days.

The investigation is expected to examine a range of issues regarding abuse allegations and how they are dealt with when reported to any government agency.

Too little, too late

Victoria-based law firm Arnold Thomas and Becker is considering launching a class action against the THS, alleging it breached its duty to its patients and victims by not responding to complaints.

Lawyer Kim Price said the firm had spoken to approximately a dozen victims or their representatives, but expected that number to grow.

He said there should “absolutely be an independent investigation”, but for the victims it was “too little too late”.

“A report advising the Government as to what may have gone wrong and what policies and procedures should be now put in place is really of very little practical use to our victims,” he said.

“It’s very disappointing and concerning that it takes this sort of publicity, a podcast, for the Government to take action, to investigate incidents that have been going on for potentially decades.”

Mr Price said they proposing to commence legal action as early as next year.

“We don’t intend to wait the outcome of the independent investigation as to whether or not court proceedings should be pursued,” he said.

LGH staff ‘disturbed’ and ‘distressed’ by allegations

Emily Shepherd, from the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), said her members were “greatly disturbed” by the allegations.

Emily Shepherd looks away from the camera.
Emily Shepherd says staff who worked with Mr Griffin are “deeply distressed”.(ABC News: Craig Heerey)

“These are serious allegations and serious crimes, and they absolutely need to be fully investigated,” she said.

“They were unaware of these allegations until they were made public and many of them are greatly disturbed by them.”

She said any gaps in the processes need to be identified to “ensure this never happens again”.

“We’d be looking to ensure that there are processes in place to support members to make any reports, raise concerns and call out behaviour that they believe is inappropriate,” she said.

A spokesperson for the University of Tasmania also confirmed that Mr Griffin worked in student accommodation at the Newnham campus in Launceston.

“The man was a property officer in student accommodation at the Newnham campus between 1986 and 1997. He also worked a small number of casual shifts between 2001 and 2004.”

“The University is not aware of any criminal allegations in relation to the employee other than what has been reported in the media.

“The alleged crimes detailed in recent days are horrific. Any current or former members of our community with any questions, concerns or issues can contact the University to discuss them.”

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Launceston General & Mersey Issues

Media release – Michelle O’Byrne MP, Labor Member for Bass, 5 September 2020

Doctors at breaking point as LGH reaches its ‘lowest ebb’

Sarah Courtney must address serious concerns of health professionals at the Launceston General Hospital to prevent more unnecessary deaths.

Labor Member for Bass Michelle O’Byrne said doctors at the LGH had reached breaking point.

“For months, Tasmanian health professionals have been working tirelessly to hold the health system together in the middle of a pandemic,” Ms O’Byrne said.

“The consequences of the Government’s deep budget cuts did not go away, they were just temporarily pushed from the headlines.”

Registrars have provided a devastating account of the conditions at the LGH in a letter to Tasmanian Health Service management.

They write:

“The General has been part of this community since 1883 and right now it is at its lowest ebb.

“As a group, we can no longer be silent about the safety of our patients… We come to work each day knowing our workplace is not safe for patients and that we will be forced to give suboptimal care.

“Our patients have died unnecessarily, they have died because we did not have appropriate space to treat and monitor them.”

“The Registrars have also raised serious concerns about the LGH not being COVID safe, warning overcrowding in the ED has made social distancing impossible and the negative pressure ward used to isolate suspected COVID-19 cases, doesn’t work because of a broken fan.

“Many of the actions the doctors have called for to address problems at the LGH were agreed outcomes of the Access Solutions Meeting in June last year.

“Despite committing in October to roll out changes at the LGH to reduce bed block and improve patient flow, almost a year later and no changes have been implemented and the situation at the hospital has worsened.

“Sarah Courtney needs to fix the chronic bed block and understaffing at the LGH before more patients die unnecessarily.”

Statement – Dr Helen McArdle, President AMA Tasmania, 15 September 2020


“The Launceston General Hospital has been suffering from access block problems within its Emergency Department for some time.

“The Registrars are crying out for help on behalf of their patients and their colleagues.

“AMA members working in the ED have reported to me that morale is appallingly low.

“They are desperate for support from senior management to help address the issues they are facing each day with access block impacting their patient care.

“It is incumbent on all parties, clinicians, nurses and management at the LGH to work together to find practical solutions to move patients through the hospital more quickly and relieve pressure from the ED.

“The public deserve to have the confidence that they will get the care they need in an emergency in a timely manner and in an appropriate environment.

“That cannot be said to be the case for every patient at this time at the LGH.

“Access block issues are also a problem at both the Royal Hobart Hospital and North West General Hospitals E.Ds.

“This is where a whole state strategy needs to be developed by the government that also involves General Practice, where appropriate, to deliver care in the community and aged care facilities, who could take some elderly patients waiting for an aged care bed sooner, thereby freeing up beds in our hospitals.”

Media release – Felix Ellis, Liberal Member for Braddon, 15 September 2020

Does Labor’s newest member support the Mersey?

While the Tasmanian Liberal Government is working hard to safely reopen the Mersey ED to a 24/7 service, Rebecca White and Labor are continuing their constant politicking at every opportunity.

It’s newest member is on the record saying the hospital “exists due to political pork barrelling and parochialism. Now – we all pay for it” – Bastian Seidel*.

Dr Seidel’s tweet provides a link to an article from Martyn Goddard, which says:

  • The Mersey should never have been built. It was the child of the worst kind of parochial politics and has remained so ever since,” and
  • From a policy point of view, the decision to build it made no sense whatsoever.”

The question needs to be answered – does Dr Seidel stand by his comment, and does Rebecca White support it?

We are getting on with our plan to reopen the Mersey ED 24/7 by providing more resources, implementing immediate staffing solutions and bolstering our recruitment efforts.

Our fantastic nurses and healthcare workers do an outstanding job and we need to make sure safety remains our absolute number one priority.

*Tweet from September 2016.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent=”no” parentcategory=”writers” show = “category” hyperlink=”yes”]

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Hospital registrars claim patients are dying unnecessarily at Launceston General Hospital

Patients are dying unnecessarily at the Launceston General Hospital (LGH) in northern Tasmania, clinicians claim.

Registrars at the hospital’s emergency department (ED) have written an explosive letter to management saying it is unsafe for patients, with one person dying recently in a waiting room.

The letter, dated September 14, is signed by almost 20 clinicians who say they can “no longer remain silent”.

In it, doctors raised concerns about consistent bed block they labelled “unacceptable, dangerous and unsustainable”.

“We come to work each day knowing that our workplace is not safe for patients and that we will be forced to give sub-optimal care,” the letter says.

“Morale amongst colleagues is low and continues to decline.”

The Australasian College of Emergency Medicine has previously found the LGH had the worst bed block in the country.

The letter said doctors were forced to assess patients in chairs, on ambulance stretchers, or examine them in corridors monitored by security cameras.

“These cameras are not monitored by clinical staff, they are monitored by contracted security staff,” the letter said.

“This is not acceptable, this is not appropriate, this is not what our community deserves.”

Doctors said they regularly had to take blood and insert cannulas in overcrowded areas, mentally unwell patients were forced to remain in overcrowded and over-stimulated areas and opioids were given in unmonitored areas.

Labor’s Michelle O’Byrne says the letter describes a “devastating account” of the conditions at the hospital.(ABC News: Laura Beavis)

“A patient recently died in the waiting room under these circumstances.

“It is the general feeling amongst staff that if he had been in a monitored area his deterioration would have been noticed well before his death.”

The letter also included a list of areas that needed to be urgently addressed:

They included:

  • Utilising all available beds in the northern region
  • Improving the availability of diagnostic services after hours
  • Ensuring allied health staff were available seven days a week and mental health services 24 hours a day
  • Fixing negative pressure facilities

The doctors also outlined concerns that it was not possible to socially distance in ED.

Doctors at ‘breaking point’

Deputy Labor leader Michelle O’Byrne mentioned the letter in State Parliament, saying it was a “devastating account” of the conditions at the hospital.

“Doctors at the Launceston General Hospital have now reached breaking point,” Ms O’Byrne said.

“Minister, how many patients have died at the LGH as a result of chronic bed block and understaffing?”

Health Minister Sarah Courtney said she had not seen the letter.

Ms Courtney thanked staff for their hard work during the pandemic and outlined planned upgrades at the hospital including the redevelopment of Ward 4K.

“We’ll continue to make sure that we are doing the best we can to support our hardworking clinicians,” she said.

“We understand there is still more work to do to support our hardworking clinicians and Tasmanians who need our care.”

Hospital ward.
Doctors say there is not the space to treat and monitor patients at Launceston General Hospital.(ABC News: Damian Mcintyre)

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