Nurse turned down for Melbourne prison death | Advertiser Bendigo

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A nurse who evaluated Veronica Nelson before her death at a Melbourne women’s prison was repeatedly turned away when she asked to make a statement about what she saw. Stephanie Hills, who participated in Veronica’s first medical evaluation at the Dame Phyllis Frost Center on Dec. 31, 2019, recalled in tearful testimony Wednesday her shock at the news that the woman Yorta Yorta died in her cell on Dec. 2 January 2020. Veronica died from complications of Wilkie syndrome, in a context of heroin withdrawal. Ms. Hills told a Victoria coroner that she had just finished her round of medication when prison staff informed her of Veronica’s death. A nurse practitioner was among those who escorted her back to the other side of the prison because she was so distraught. “I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t told when I got to my shift in the morning that she had passed away,” she said. Ms. Hills said that she suggested to her regional manager that she make a statement about her evaluation of Veronica and then, after he suggested they do it another time, she asked one more time, but it never happened. “He didn’t want my statement,” Hills said. The nurse said there was a “clear hierarchy” in the prison between the doctor who first evaluated Veronica and other nurses. Ms. Hills said that she worked 60 to 70 shifts with him and that she often ignored patients’ suggestions about what they needed. A corrections officer said the doctor said words like “how many prisoners do we see walking away? She needs to stop asking, we can’t do anything else,” the coroner heard. An attorney representing Ms. Hills’ employer, Correct Care, told the nurse that Veronica was not in the “serious” condition she had suggested when she arrived at the prison: unable to sit up straight and confused. Erin Gardner played CCTV in court of Veronica walking through the prison corridors at the time of her first medical evaluation and sitting on her bed to take medication. Ms. Gardner suggested that if Veronica really was in an “extreme condition”, Ms. Hills would have done more to help her, including calling an ambulance despite the doctor’s earlier refusal to do so. She said it was not Correct Care’s practice to take statements from staff when they were distressed. She played audio to the court of Veronica calling prison staff through an intercom and saying, “I feel sick to my stomach.” A corrections officer responded, “Yes, you just have to wait for Maxolon to kick in.” Mrs Hills said: “She is extremely unwell…and prison staff are giving medical advice… [when] they are not medically trained.” The hearing, which is expected to last five weeks, is examining the adequacy of prison medical care, the impact of Veronica’s Aboriginality on her death and Victoria’s bail laws. Associated Press


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