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Injured nurse awarded $1.6m

A Queensland nurse has been awarded more than $1.6 million in damages for an injury sustained when dealing with a violent dementia patient.

Trinet Ruth Wilson, 46, sued Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service (GCHHS) over a back injury she suffered in March 2016 while trying to restrain a thrashing woman at Robina Hospital.

The Supreme Court of Brisbane was told several “Code Blacks” – an alert issued when there is a personal threat or serious safety risk in a hospital – had been activated in relation to the patient before the incident occurred.

It was told Ms Wilson had leaned over a bed to hold down the patient’s legs so a calming injection could be administered. Once the patient had been let go, the patient lashed out and Ms Wilson “arched back real quick” and twisted to avoid being hit.

The movement resulted in a debilitating injury to Ms Wilson, who is now unable to work and receives a disability support pension.

GCHHS arguments included there was no risk of injury it knew, or ought reasonably to have known, nor was there a risk of injury that was not insignificant.

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It also argued Ms Wilson had an existing back injury which would have led to similar symptoms to those she suffered after the incident, “which would have interfered with her ability to work and enjoy life in any event”.

Ms Wilson argued GCHHS had been negligent in failing to instruct her that she should leave the restraint of a patient to security officers, and in the failure by two security officers involved in the incident to call for a third to help restrain the patient.

Supreme Court Justice Soraya Ryan found the service negligent on both counts.

“I consider the plaintiff’s pain and suffering and loss of amenity of life to be significant,” Justice Ryan said when ruling on costs.

She awarded a total of $1,634,418.55 in damages that included past economic loss of $473,548 and future economic loss of $800,000. Other components included past and future medical expenses, and past and future superannuation loss.

Both parties are to provide written submissions on costs within 21 days.

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