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Nurse claims she suffered stress and sleeping difficulties working with violent and aggressive patients

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A psychiatric nurse has brought a High Court action claiming she suffered stress and sleeping difficulties as a result of the HSE's decision to admit unsuitable violent and aggressive patients to the high support unit she worked in.

Catherine (Tina) McCormack claims the decision to admit those patients to Ferndale Community Residence, Dooradoyle, Limerick, meant she, other staff and other patients were exposed to a danger to their health and safety.

The HSE denies the claims.

In her action, she claims during 2013, Ferndale began to admit patients who exhibited violent and aggressive behaviour.

As a result, she alleges, two incidents occurred which had a profound effect on her.

The first was on December 31, 2013, when she discovered the suicide of a patient in her care.

The second was the following February 27 when she was present in the immediate aftermath of a suicide attempt by a colleague who was apparently unable to cope with the difficulties being experience by staff at Ferndale.

She also claims she was exposed to continual risk of injury in the course of her employment and did not feel safe at work.

She claims the HSE failed, among other things, to provide any or any adequate training, to provide adequate staffing at the facility or to have regard to the increase in incidents concerning patients.

She says she attended her GP following the first incident with stress and difficulty in sleeping. She was prescribed the anxiety treatment drug, Xanax, and was certified as unfit for work.

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She was again certified unfit for work following the second incident. It is claimed that her prognosis is guarded.

For her pending case, she sought disclosure from the HSE of any documents surrounding the incidents as well as, among other things, documents about assessments/evaluation of the incidents and evidence of training/support for staff dealing with violent and aggressive patients.

The HSE refused to disclose and Ms McCormack sought a discovery order from the High Court.

The court refused to make discovery and she appealed that decision.

In a judgment on behalf of the three-judge Court of Appeal (CoA), Mr Justice Donald Binchy upheld the High Court decision.

He said the High Court judge's decision to refuse to order discovery of disputed categories of documentation "was one that was well within his margin of appreciation on the application". The appeal should therefore be dismissed.

The main case has yet to come to trial.


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