Nurses’ sex attack fears

The Mortuary area at Craigavon Area Hospital. INPT03-208
The Mortuary area at Craigavon Area Hospital. INPT03-208

Nurses are fearing for their safety after a colleague was sexually assaulted in a car park at Craigavon Hospital.

One nurse said staff feel the hospital isn’t doing enough to keep colleagues safe and have called for better lighting and improved security.

Police are hunting for two men following the assault on a 33-year-old woman shortly before 8pm on Wednesday, January 8. She was walking from a car park near the mortuary when she became aware of two men, one of whom sexually assaulted her.

A nurse at Craigavon called for the barrier at the car park in front of the hospital to be open at night so nurses can park safely.

She said nurses arriving for night duty had already been frightened of parking at the back of the hospital prior to the assault.

“All the girls are scared. They are literally running from their cars in the back car park to the door,” she said.

And now they are even more afraid.should have to pay to park in the front car park,” she told the Mail.

“There is no lighting at all at the back. All the girls are scared. They are literally running from their cars in the back car park to the door. And now they are even more afraid.

“I think they should open the car park at night. If this is sorted soon, staff will be even more worried. I am very annoyed and afraid.

“When we are going on night duty we are even more afraid. It is so dark we wouldn’t stand a chance. There are girls waiting in their cars for other colleagues to arrive so they can walk to the entrance together.

“The hospital are not doing enough.

She said there was an email from management that security had been stepped up temporarily. “But there is no improved lighting and no security,” she said.

“If these guys know there are vulnerable women walking in the dark, they will take advantage of it. If nothing is done someone will be badly hurt or murdered,” she said.

“I am afraid for my own safety and that of my colleagues. It is not something that can be put on the long finger. It needs to be sorted now,” she said.

“The barriered that car park for money but a lot of the night shift doesn’t start til 8pm. They should lift the barriers to make it free after then or give staff special passes to use it. At the minute we are being made to park down the back. Some of the nurses finish at midnight and 5am. Parking at the hospital is atrocious and we have no choice in the matter but to park around the back.

“Sometimes it is so full around the back that some nurses have to park as far away as the morgue which is pitch black,” she said.

She called on the hospital to urgently open the front car park for staff who work at night and to increase security and erect better lighting around the hospital.

“It is a matter of urgency,” she said.

A hospital spokesperson said: “The Trust is working closely with PSNI who are investigating an incident which occurred in Craigavon Area Hospital car park on Wednesday night. The Trust and the PSNI are reviewing security on the hospital site and the Trust will take all reasonable steps to improve security.

“Extra security measures have been put in place on the site including extra patrols by PSNI and by a private security contractor employed by the Trust.

“Staff have been made aware that there has been an incident and advised to be extra vigilant. Meetings are ongoing in relation to staff safety.

Debbie Burns, Southern Trust Interim Director of Acute Services said; “ The Trust takes staff safety very seriously and there has been significant investment of approximately £200,000 in the last 1-2 years to improve security on the Craigavon Hospital site including; new lighting, removal of shrubbery, CCTV and upgrading footpaths as part of the redevelopment of car parks at Craigavon. We have no record of this type of incident happening before on this site. We continue to do everything to ensure we make the site as safe as possible for patients, staff and visitors.”

SDLP Deputy Leader and Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly has called on the Southern Health and Social Care Trust to urgently review security arrangements at Craigavon Area Hospital following an incident where a nurse came under attack in a car park.

Ms Kelly said: “I was shocked to hear that a nurse was attacked in a car park just before her nightshift was due to begin. Our health service staff work tirelessly around the clock to help the most vulnerable. Those who put them in danger are absolutely beneath contempt.

“It is important now that health bosses at the hospital and within the trust take action to ensure the safety of patients, their families and staff. I am calling on those in charge to carry out an urgent risk assessment in response to this incident and for tangible results to improve safety at the site.

“Small steps taken now can make a big difference, not only to the safety of staff but to their peace of mind. For example, lighting in the car park should be reviewed to improve visibility and deter any attackers.

“I will be in touch with representatives of the Trust to ensure staff and patient safety is improved as a matter of urgency”

David Simpson MP said: ““I was horrified to hear that a female member of staff had been sexually assaulted at Craigavon Area Hospital. I utterly condemn this attack and while such incidents anywhere are condemnable in the strongest terms but to have taken place on the grounds of our hospital and the workplace of the young healthcare professional bringsparticular sadness and concern.

“Our work place is somewhere that we should feel safe and at ease especially for those in the caring profession. My wholehearted support goes out to this young woman and her family as they try to come to terms with what has happened. I trust that they are getting all the help and support they need.

“I have been in contact with the Trust and they have assured me that everything is being done to reassure the victim and they are working closely with the PSNI to bring those involved to justice.

“There will obviously be many women in this area, both staff and patients and it is vital that people should be able to feel safe in these grounds. There must have been people in the area when this incident happened however and it is vital that anyone who may have been nearby at the

time of the incident and may have seen something of use would contact the police to assist them. Those who would prey on women in this way must be brought to justice and face the full weight of the law.’

“The Trust have confirmed that they are actively working to increase security around the hospital and have informed all members of staff to be extra vigilant when travelling between departments within the site grounds.”

Police are appealing to anyone who witnessed this incident or observed the two males in the vicinity of the hospital prior to or after the incident to contact them in Portadown on 0845 600 8000. If you prefer to provide information without giving your details you can contact the independent Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.