SINGAPORE - A male staff nurse lost his temper with an intellectually disabled patient who threw a food tray at his colleague, kicking the man in the back at least four times.
On Thursday (June 21), S. Ahmad Shazaly S. Affindy, 27, was sentenced to six months' jail after pleading guilty to causing hurt to the 56-year-old man, who is unable to speak .
The court heard that on May 17 last year, the patient at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) had eaten his lunch when he threw the tray at a nurse. She picked it up and told Ahmad Shazaly, who was on duty, about the incident.
Ahmad Shazaly confronted the patient and decided to take the man back to his room so that he could be restrained.
But when they reached the room, the older man lay on his side on the floor instead and refused to move.
Enraged, Ahmad Shazaly kicked the patient's back at least four times. He then grabbed the patient by the collar and dragged him along the floor for about 2m before the man eventually got up.
About six hours later, another nurse noticed that the patient's right hand was swollen with some discolouration. An X-ray done the next day found a fracture on his right little finger.
When the staff checked closed-circuit television footage of the ward to ascertain the cause of the injury, it showed Ahmad Shazaly assaulting the patient. IMH reported the matter to police.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhuo Wenzhao, in urging District Judge Jasvender Kaur to sentence Ahmad Shazaly to at least eight months' jail, said: "The accused had abused his powers by assaulting the victim and then tying him to the bed with restraints."
Mr Irving Choh, who represented the accused, appealed for a shorter five-month sentence. He also said Ahmad Shazaly had been sacked.
He said in mitigation: "It is a known fact that a large number of nurses and healthcare professionals suffer from caregiver syndrome (which) causes anxiety and stress."
Ahmad Shazaly, who is out on bail of $10,000, was ordered to surrender himself at the State Courts on July 5 to begin his sentence.
IMH said in response to Straits Times queries on Thursday that Ahmad Shazaly's employment was terminated in July last year.
It also made sure that, following the incident, existing safeguards were further reinforced and all its staff were reminded about existing protocols.
"For example, staff were reminded of the various platforms of support and assistance that they can turn to should they encounter any difficulty at work, are feeling stressed or overwhelmed," said a spokesman.
"Supervisors were reminded to look out for staff who might be experiencing stress and burnout and to encourage them to talk it out and to seek support from the Staff Support Assistance Programme."
IMH told ST that its staff have also been told to seek advice and assistance from their team instead of trying to resolve the problem on their own.
"Our staff work in teams and are trained to observe and monitor the patients under their care for any change in the patients' behaviour and to look out for any injuries on the patients. The patients are reviewed regularly by a multi-disciplinary team," the spokesman said.
"Any injury that is unexplained is thoroughly investigated by a senior nurse and the team."