IMH health attendant jailed 3 weeks for slapping schizophrenic patient

Sadasivam Kannan was fired from IMH in March last year after working there for over 17 years. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Stressed and angered by a patient's aggressive behaviour, a health attendant at the Institute of Mental Health slapped the man's head twice.

Sadasivam Kannan, 61, was sentenced to three weeks' jail on Monday (Aug 23) after pleading guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt to a vulnerable person in 2019.

He was fired from IMH in March last year after working there for over 17 years.

His victim, aged 59, is a long-term patient at the facility who suffers from chronic schizophrenia. He has been at IMH since 2005 and is incapable of protecting himself from abuse due to his mental illness, the court heard.

Sadasivam and two other staff nurses - Muhammad Ihsan Mahmud, 32, and Iylia Muhammad Afiq Nor Effendi, 25 - were charged in relation to assaulting the patient on Dec 8, 2019.

The court heard that the victim was moved to a lounge area after getting a haircut that morning. He started toying with another patient's urinal and splashed some urine on an attending nurse.

Ihsan heard of what happened and splashed hand sanitiser on the victim's face three times within several minutes.

The victim then began to create a disturbance in the lounge, which led to Sadasivam, Ihsan and Iylia using three restraints on him instead of one.

When the victim grew agitated, Ihsan punched him in the face twice before continuing to secure the restraints on him.

The victim remained aggressive and kicked at the nurses, so the trio held him down to subdue him.

As Sadasivam was trying to fix the restraints on his arm, the victim kicked another patient. This riled up Sadasivam, who slapped the back of his head and scolded him.

The victim cowered in response and calmed down while Sadasivam continued fixing his restraints. He then rocked his head back and forth and placed his head close to Sadasivam's head at one point. Sadasivam slapped him again.

Iylia allegedly also slapped the victim on his back, shoulder and neck several times. He is also accused of tilting the victim's wheelchair forward and sideways, nearly causing him to fall off.

Footage of the incident captured by a security camera was played in court.

Iylia later discovered that the victim had bruises around his right eye and applied an ice pack to the area.

He then reported the victim's injuries to IMH management, prompting a human resource manager to lodge a police report.

The victim was sent that day to Singapore General Hospital, where he was found to have a fractured toe and bruises around his eyes, and on his jaw and toes.

Seeking at least four weeks' jail for Sadasivam, Deputy Public Prosecutor Phoebe Tan said there was a breach of trust and duty of care he owed to the victim.

She added that his actions "undermined public confidence in the administration of healthcare services in Singapore".

In mitigation, Sadasivam's lawyer Gloria James said he is "not known to be a violent person" and cares for his visually impaired wife at home.

She added that her client had given the victim a letter of apology to show his remorse.

For voluntarily causing hurt, Sadasivam could have been jailed for up to two years, or fined up to $5,000, or both. For assaulting a vulnerable person, he could have been sentenced up to 1½ times that punishment.

Ihsan and Iylia were also charged with voluntarily causing hurt to a vulnerable victim and using criminal force against him.

Iylia faces an additional charge of committing a rash act that endangers human life. His case is pending.

Ihsan was convicted and sentenced to nine weeks' jail in January this year.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.