Phillip Thomson August 19, 2012
Former nurse at the Canberra Hospital, Kate Virtue, was almost killed by an electric shock while working. Photo: Jay Cronan
A Canberra Hospital nurse almost killed on the job by an electric shock says she has exposed serious flaws in the official report into her accident, saying the mishap ended her nursing career and plunged her into financial crisis.
Nurse Kate Virtue has come forward for the first time to say the publicly released ACT government report wrongly claims she returned to work after just three days.
Two years after being thrown up to three metres across a room by an electric shock, she has confirmed she never resumed work at the hospital.
She told the Sunday Canberra Times she was still on cardiac medication and suffers from other serious ongoing medical problems. She has had to rely on financial support from her family to support her two children.
''I feel they tried to sweep this case under the carpet,'' she said. ''[It is] as if they're trying to avoid recognising the significance of the accident.''
Ms Virtue said she attempted three return-to-work programs at Canberra Hospital, the first of which was several months after the accident.
These failed to get her back to work at the hospital where she had worked for most of the past 19 years as a registered nurse.
To make matters worse, Ms Virtue said she had temporarily reduced her working hours to eight hours a week because of family reasons.
She was due to return to at least three times this amount of hours the week following the accident.
The fact she was working fewer hours at the time of the incident meant her weekly payments from Comcare - which has not paid her a lump sum - were considerably less than they could have been.
In July 2010, Ms Virtue was working in the surgical recovery unit when she received an electric shock, believed to have been caused by exposed wires in a power cord.
Staff heard a loud bang and saw a blue flame. The report into her accident, which claimed she returned to work after three days, was written by an investigator from the Justice and Community Safety Directorate as well as the ACT Work Safety Commissioner.
Ms Virtue said she was not interviewed by investigators.
Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne will be taking Ms Virtue's complaint to ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell who tabled the report in the assembly.
''There's an apparent attempt to minimise the seriousness of the incident if not a straight cover-up,'' Ms Dunne said.
Ms Dunne said there had been not enough follow up by the hospital into Ms Virtue's health.
After the report was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly, Ms Virtue complained in an email to a senior manager at WorkSafe ACT in August last year.
Work Safety commissioner Mark McCabe said there was no point interviewing Ms Virtue because the facts about what happened were easily established and not contested.
Mr McCabe said the inaccurate information provided to his office about when she returned to work did not change his assessment of the accident as being in the most serious category.
A Health Directorate spokeswoman said she could not discuss Ms Virtue's specific case. However, injured staff were encouraged to return to work as part of a planned rehabilitation program when appropriate.