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Mersey Hospital staff who attended to victims of the Hillcrest tragedy left waiting for critical incident debriefing | The Examiner


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Three days after the Hillcrest tragedy that took the lives of six children and left two in a critical condition, hospital staff who responded to the incident were still waiting for a critical debrief. In an email sent Sunday morning to employees of the Tasmanian Health Service and viewed by Australian Community Media, a senior worker at the Mersey Community Hospital detailed how staff were waiting for a “critical incident debriefing”. READ MORE: Four new COVID-19 cases confirmed “I am imploring the executive to expedite the critical incident debriefing,” it read. “Any further delays will result in delayed healing and will only add to the trauma. I don’t think I’m alone when I say we all as a team, from all workgroups and professions, need immediate professional help.” THS Chief Psychiatrist Dr Aaron Groves said following a mass-casualty incident several debriefings took place, including a high-level operational debriefing. He said following Thursday’s tragedy, counselling services were available at the Mersey Community Hospital as early as that day, while employee support was in place by Friday. Dr Groves said he understood three debriefings were scheduled for Friday, but could not confirm if they went ahead. In a separate email sent on the Friday morning, THS North-West director of emergency medicine Marielle Ruigrok wrote to staff and advised a formal debrief was “unlikely” to take place that day. “The executive needs to plan with the other services as well education, police, ambulance so hopefully there will be a time next week. “As soon as I know you will know.” The senior hospital worker expressed they were driven to “step out of THS policy and procedure” and were “prepared to face consequences” so they could protect the “health and sanity” of their colleagues at what could prove to be an impactful and reverberative moment in their career. “There are too many staff at the Mersey that are spiritually and emotionally broken,” it read. “I again implore the executive that a critical incident debriefing be conducted as an operational priority.” It was understood the debriefs eventually took place on Monday, four days after the tragedy, and a day after the email was sent. Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation Tasmanian secretary Emily Shepherd said the delay was concerning. READ MORE: Thief made off with $5000 of jewellery and watches “To hear that staff had requested that group debrief and it hadn’t occurred and they were desperately in need for days, then obviously, there needs to be a significant improvement in terms of how that’s rolled out,” she said. Ms Shepherd said it was important staff had access to the support they required when they required it – particularly following a traumatic experience. “A critical incident debriefing, the evidence would say the closer to the incident, the better,” she said. “Obviously, the sooner our staff have the opportunity to do a team debrief the better. “When people experience trauma, what they need in terms of support and recovery is really different, so making sure the THS are offering a varied approach to support, to make sure each individual is actually getting the support they need is important.” READ MORE: Tickets snapped up for Tasmanian cricket history Ms Shepherd said the concerns raised by the email spoke to larger issues in the THS support protocols. “Police, fire, and ambulance have access to what’s known as a peer support program where there are individuals within each workplace that have specific training to provide that sort of trauma-informed care to their colleagues,” she said. “We have raised that, that needs to be considered for nurses and midwives, because I think this particular absolute tragedy highlights that there isn’t a structured support system in place to support nurses and midwives when they’re experiencing trauma that is on par with other emergency responders.” Dr Groves said the THS had offered a wide-range of support to staff, and a support program would continue as part of the ongoing response to this incident. What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor: Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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