COVID nurse takes action over ‘character assassination’

 

An action has been filed at the Queensland Human Rights Commission against Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Health Minister Steven Miles, Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young and Labor Member for Keppel Brittany Lauga over their treatment of the Rockhampton aged care nurse whose coronavirus diagnosis sparked a major health scare in central Queensland.

The complaint has been filed by the Nurses' Professional Association of Queensland on behalf of its member.

The association is now assisting the nurse with her return to work.

The NPAQ alleges the nurse was shamed and vilified in breach of Labor's new Human Rights Act.

Early this month the Rockhampton woman was cleared of any wrongdoing by an investigation ordered by Queensland Health director-general Dr John Wakefield.

The investigators found that the nurse had asked her bosses if she could attend work while waiting for her COVID-19 test results but received no response.

The probe found the treatment of the nurse by her leaders could have been "more respectful and caring" and that had there been a more "collaborative and caring culture" at the facility, the incident may never have happened.

But they also found that found the public health response to the case was appropriate, "with health officials working extremely well and conscientiously to prevent an outbreak at the centre".

The NPAQ alleges the nurse was discriminated against based on an impairment - "that being her case of COVID".

The action claims that there was a contravention of her human rights to both protection from inhuman treatment and to privacy and reputation.

 

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young flanked by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Health Minister Steven Miles
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young flanked by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Health Minister Steven Miles

 

"We argue that the defence of public health necessity will not apply as she followed workplace directions and it was not reasonably necessary for senior government leaders to make sustained character assassinations for over a week," NPAQ secretary Aenghas Hopkinson-Pearson said.

"Brittany Lauga cherry-picked private contact tracing information, which the NPAQ argues was to undermine public opinion of the nurse.

"We sat with the nurse in Rockhampton watching the TV as Steven Miles said she had lied to contact tracers while at the same time we were reading glowing correspondence from police and investigators over her co-operation and honesty.

The site of the coronavirus scare in North Rockhampton
The site of the coronavirus scare in North Rockhampton

"It didn't help that the Premier and the Chief Health Officer piled on."

Mr Miles said it "has been incredibly important that we don't undermine the public health messaging here".

"That is, that if anyone is sick they should not go to work, and that especially applies if you work for Queensland Health. If you work in a health facility, and aged care facility or a disability support facility…we are very concerned about the risks of transmission in places like that" he said

"We managed that North Rockhampton exposure without a single resident getting COVID-19.

"If you compare that to the more than 600 in aged care who have died in Victoria.

"So the decisions we've made haven't always been easy, and I get that they will sometimes upset people."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as COVID nurse takes action over 'character assassination'


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