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Nurses union backs psychiatric colleagues

Psychiatric nurses protesting on Thursday

The nurses and midwives’ association Pasynm on Saturday called on the health, labour and justice ministries to re-evaluate the working conditions of psychiatric nurses treating convicts.

The announcement follows the walkout on Thursday of psychiatric nurses at the Athalassa mental health hospital after a patient who is also a convict attacked and injured three of them in addition to two policemen who were called in to help. The nurses had also gone on a work stoppage in July following a similar incident.

The psychiatric nurses’ union threatened to also remove its staff unless the safety of members dealing with convicts at Athalassa hospital is guaranteed. The union had said that following the July incident it was agreed in a meeting with the ministers of justice and health that if a psychiatrist suggested a prisoner needed to be accompanied, the prison would send a warden to keep watch over him while being treated.

But when nurses last week asked the prison to send a warden when the convict in question was sent to them for treatment, they were told instructions had been given from the governor not to send any wardens.

“It is unacceptable that mental health nurses… are being attacked while on duty,” Pasynm said.
Last week’s incident raises security issues that lie within the responsibilities of the justice, health and labour ministries, the group said.

Pasynm also called on the police chief to have the incident thoroughly investigated and ensure that the law and what has been agreed will be applied.

They also called on the health, labour and justice ministries to “re-evaluate the working conditions of the mental health nurses in state hospitals and make every effort so that our colleagues can work in supportive and safe conditions”.

The group also said that the International Council of Nurses characterises supportive work environments and safe workplaces as incentives for stimulating nurses to provide quality health care.

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