Fatal attack on patient shuts ward

Picture Gaye Burrows

Picture Gaye Burrows

THE death of a patient allegedly attacked with an electric guitar has forced the closure of Shellharbour Hospital's high dependency acute mental health facility.

Gerringong man Paul Hindmarsh, 31, a patient at the facility, has been accused of "fatally attacking" fellow patient 47-year-old Joseph Gumley.

During morning medical rounds last Thursday at the hospital's Eloura West facility, a staff member discovered the body of Mr Gumley upright in his bed with bloodied head injuries and a blue coloured strap wrapped around his neck.

Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

It is understood Mr Gumley had been a patient at the ward for more than six months.

Mr Hindmarsh appeared at Port Kembla court on Friday last week.

His lawyer, Angela Melouney, said it was likely Mr Hindmarsh could be declared mentally unfit to enter a formal plea or face trial.

Reports indicate Mr Hindmarsh had been displaying unusual behaviour prior to the incident, which occurred sometime between 6.30am and 7.50am on July 31.

The Eloura West facility is an observation unit for patients that require secure admission and operates under Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) guidelines, procedures and policies.

ISLHD was unable to answer questions about how the patient had access to an electric guitar in the high dependency facility, nor what the monitoring procedures were specific to this facility and the two patients.

ISLHD chief executive Sue Browbank said she extended her deepest sympathy to the family of the victim and said they were conducting a full work and safety review in consultation with staff and unions before the unit was reopened.

Patients of the facility have been temporarily relocated.

A post-mortem will be carried out on Mr Gumley's body to determine the exact cause of death and the case will return to court on October 1.

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