Staff at the western suburbs hospital’s mental health facility, Cramond Clinic, discovered the weapon yesterday afternoon, hidden under the man’s pillow.
Police officers were called to the scene at about 2pm yesterday and seized the handgun, SA Police confirmed to InDaily.
The patient has been transferred from Cramond Clinic’s open ward – where patients are free to come and go – to its higher-security, closed ward.
An SA Police spokesperson said the incident was being investigated, and the patient would be interviewed when he is released from the facility.
The gun found in the man’s room was not loaded.
“Police seized the firearm and are investigating the incident, and will interview the man once he is released from the hospital,” the spokesperson said.
“The firearm was not pointed or directed at any other staff or patients, and no threats were made.”
SA Police told InDaily this morning that the weapon was a handgun. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said the weapon was a “replica” made by the patient – but that that was not necessarily inconsistent with the weapon being a handgun.
ANMF SA Branch director Rob Bonner said: “My understanding is that it wasn’t a commercially-made firearm”.
“Whether it works or not I have got no idea.”
Bonner said he had heard conflicting reports on whether the gun was made in Cramond Clinic or was brought into the facility.
“I have heard that it was made up on site – and I have also heard that there’s a possibility that he brought it [from elsewhere].”
Bonner said his union would further investigate what had occurred.
“Clearly, the staff in that unit would be extremely distressed to find what they thought was a live [loaded] firearm,” said Bonner.
“We’re still investigating the detail.”
He said that while the incident demonstrated the need for diligent monitoring of people who enter health facilities, requiring extensive security checks in public hospitals would be impractical.
Heavy security at open mental health facilities would have a negative effect on access to public hospitals, he added.
SA Health told InDaily that security measures at the facility, including patient searches, are used on a case by case basis, based on a risk assessment.
It remains unclear whether the patient was searched when he was admitted to the facility.
Opposition Health spokesperson Stephen Wade has called for SA Health to launch a review into the actions of health services during the incident.
“The case raises a whole range of issues which beg for an answer – was the patient searched on admission? If not, should they have been?
“If they were, how did the firearm evade detection?
“Given the chronic overcrowding in our EDs and mental health wards, a review should also look at whether the patient was appropriate to be placed in an open ward or whether they were placed there because there wasn’t any room in the closed ward.”
A statement from SA Health says the “contraband” was confiscated from the psychiatric inpatient upon discovery, and confirms that the patient was transferred “without further incident” to a closed ward within Cramond Clinic thereafter.
“We will work with SAPOL through their investigation,” the statement says.
SA Chair of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Michelle Atchison told InDaily that it is unusual to frisk or search a patient voluntarily entering an open mental health ward, but that the incident may lead to a consideration of a change in policy.
“Safety is a paramount concern for staff and patients,” she said.
“It wouldn’t be usual to clothes-search a patient … who wasn’t in a secure facility[unless] there was specific concerns raised.”
However, she said, “an incident like this might cause a rethink of those considerations”.
“Given the seriousness of that incident, the policy might change [but] it then gets into issues of privacy,” she said.
“You don’t want to feel like you’re in jail [in an open mental health ward]
“That would change the therapeutic nature of the hospital ward.”
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