Perth, WA: Calls for ‘urgent’ probe into kid’s hospital

A 13-year-old girl has allegedly been raped by a fellow patient while being treated in Perth Children’s Hospital, leading to calls for an “urgent and transparent” investigation.

WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson says the alleged rape of the girl by a fellow patient was “devastating and preventable”.

The parents of the then-13-year-old girl, given the pseudonym Florence, are considering legal action after the girl was allegedly raped by a male patient while they were receiving treatment in PCH’s mental health ward in 2022.

Florence was being treated after being sexually assaulted three months earlier.

State Liberal leader Libby Mettam is calling for an “urgent and transparent” investigation into the incident, revealed in an ABC report on Tuesday.

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Mettam slammed PCH’s refusal to hand over CCTV footage from the night of the alleged incident, and said it was the “bare minimum” the hospital could do.

“This is a devastating situation and we need an urgent and transparent investigation into what has occurred,” Ms Mettam, who is also Opposition health spokesperson, said.

“The fact that a victim of sexual assault has allegedly been assaulted within a mental health ward points to an absolute failure under the Cook government and we need to ensure that every measure is taken to make sure this will not happen again.”

The ABC reported an internal review by Child and Adolescent Health Service (CAHS) found staff failed to perform hourly checks on the ward early on the morning of the alleged rape.

“If staff were afraid, or were hiding themselves in fear from the male patient, that should have rung alarm bells and should have seen the other patients better protected as a result of the obvious concern that existed,” Ms Mettam said.

“The very fact we are hearing reports of staff with fear about this patient and the inability of staff to then protect patients within that ward illustrates an absolute failure on the part of the Government to keep WA patients safe in our flagship children’s hospital.”

Earlier on Tuesday, WA’s Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson fronted the media.

“This particular incident was … devastating and preventable and everything has been done to ensure that that doesn’t happen again,” Ms Sanderson said.

She said it was “inexplicable why a number of a number of things weren’t done.”

“It is inexplicable why security wasn’t called. Security is available to staff 24/7 to support them,” Ms Sanderson said.

“Their supervisor also should have attended that incident and supported the staff. So it was an extremely serious event and there are a number of failings.”

The minister said the incident had been reported to WA Police and triggered investigations by both the Child and Adolescent Health Service – which runs PCH – and the independent Office of the Chief Psychiatrist.

She said all of the recommendations from those reports had been accepted, and $7.7m in extra funding had been made availed “to make changes to the ward”.

Four PCH staff members have already faced disciplinary action over the incident, and are no longer stationed on PCH’s mental health ward.

PCH’s mental health ward is co-ed, as is common practice in wards across Australia.

Ms Sanderson said she understood the alleged rape was before the courts.

Florence’s parents say told the ABC they could not understand how the hospital they trusted to keep their daughter safe could become the site of her second sexual assault.

“Absolutely gut wrenching that the same thing happened to her in less than three months. That actually broke me,” Luke says.

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