An outback nurse has been attacked in a remote Northern Territory town, sparking renewed calls to stop them working alone. The 54-year-old woman was punched and kicked as she went to pick him up a patient for an appointment in Wadeye, almost 400km southwest of Darwin, on Tuesday afternoon.
A 35-year-old man has been charged with aggravated assault and assaulting a worker.
The incident has again put the spotlight on outback nurse safety following the murder of Gayle Woodford in South Australia’s far north last month. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation described the attack as brutal and said it showed why nurses visiting remote communities should never work solo.
‘Our nurses aren’t punching bags,’ NT branch secretary Yvonne Falckh said on Wednesday.
The woman was not seriously injured, while her alleged attacker appeared in the Darwin Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
The NT health department said the incident was ‘highly distressing’ for the nurse and her colleagues.
‘She and all the team at Wadeye have our full support at this difficult time,’ executive director of clinical support Robyn Aitken said.
The department began reviewing safety arrangements for remote nurses after the body of Ms Woodford was found in a shallow grave in SA’s APY Lands.
She was taken from outside her home and a 36-year-old man was charged with her murder.
NT Chief Minister Adam Giles said the latest attack was a ‘heinous’ crime.
‘Whether that’s a nurse, a teacher or a bus driver or someone serving food at McDonald’s or at the local supermarket, nobody should be attacking our officials or people in the general public,’ he said.
Mr Giles said the health department previously told him that practitioners should be accompanied by drivers.
‘I’m not of the understanding that nurses go to callouts alone. It’s probably a question we need to put to the administrators in the health department,’ he said.
‘There are a range of policies health professionals need to follow to make sure they look after their safety when they go to see customers or clients.’