Nursing aide committed to psychiatric hospital over argument with Mt Carmel superior

The woman was admitted to the same ward she worked in and was placed under the care of her colleagues, the General Workers Union has claimed 

The woman was allegedly kept for four days
The woman was allegedly kept for four days

A nursing aide at Mount Carmel psychiatric hospital was kept in a ward at the hospital against her will for four days following an argument with one of her superiors, according to the General Workers Union.

Addressing a press conference General Workers Union secretary for the public sector Jeremy Camilleri said the case revolved around a nursing aide who had had an argument with a nurse who is one of her superiors. Without going into the merits of the argument, Camilleri said the woman in question had apologised to the nurse and had admitted she was wrong. 

However, Camilleri said that after the woman apologised she was told by the nurse she had argued with that she had psychiatric problems, with the nurse insisting that she would not work with her again.  

"Some weeks later, management called the woman up and said they were worried that she might be going to hurt herself or others, and that she would be kept as a patient," he said.

Camilleri said the woman was kept at the hospital for four days in the same hall that she worked in.

"She was among the people she took care of and was being watched over by people she worked with," he said, adding that she was placed under 24-hour observation which included being accompanied in the bathroom and shower.

While she was under observation, Camilleri said, the unnamed woman had also been handed a letter in which she was told that disciplinary action would be taken against her.

He stressed that it was unacceptable for the woman to have been kept in the same place she worked in, adding that in such circumstances, an alternative location is found. Despite this, he said that the hospital's management had only offered to transferred the woman to a different location after she had already been there for six hours. 

When an explanation was requested from health authorities, Camilleri said the union was told that he woman had been admitted voluntarily, a claim he said she refutes.

"The management says it has a document that she signed being admitted, but Camilleri insisted that the woman had done so after she was told that if she didn't a care order would be issued and she would be kept for ten days. He said the woman is a mother and the sole breadwinner in her family. 

Camilleri said that he had also taken the case up with Joseph Rapa, the permanent secretary at the Health ministry, who had asked to for an investigation and the suspension of disciplinary action against the woman pending its outcome. 

"If they kept her legitimately then disciplinary action should be taken against her because he can't be held responsible or her actions," he said,  adding that if on the other hand there was no reason for her to be admitted, she was detained illegally. 

Camilleri said he had been assured by Rapa that he would speak to the Mount Carmel CEO Stephen Sultana, and was assured that the hearing would be postponed, given also that the woman had been out on sick leave at the time.  

"But then she receives a letter saying her case was decided on her absence and that her failure to attend was arrogance in her par," Camilleri continued. 

He said that the union had written to the mental health commissioner, who it also asked to investigate the case. In the meantime, he said an independent pyschiatrist, who also happens to work at Mount Carmel, had found that she was fully in control of her thought at the time of the argument. 

Camilleri pointed out that the woman had been given no medication while she was at the hospital, nor had she been given any instructions on how to deal with her condition after leaving the hospital. Furthermore, he said that the decision to keep the woman for observation had been taken by a single individual, over the phone, on the basis of a report from a person who alleged to have overheard her say she was going to kill herself. 

Asked whether the union was aware of any other psychiatric episodes in the past Camilleri said that he had been informed that there might have been a single minor incident in the past, however he said the nature of the incident was not psychiatric.

Camilleri said that having exhausted all options, he was now appealing to deputy prime minister and Health minister Chris Fearne to intervene.