A nurse who assessed Veronica Nelson in the lead-up to her death at a Melbourne women's prison was repeatedly rebuffed when she asked to make a statement about what she saw.
Stephanie Hills, who was involved in Veronica's first medical assessment at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre on December 31, 2019, recalled in tearful testimony on Wednesday her shock at the news the Yorta Yorta woman died in her cell on January 2, 2020.
Veronica died from complications of Wilkie's syndrome, in a setting of withdrawal from heroin.
Ms Hills told a Victorian coroner she had just finished her medication round when corrections staff informed her of Veronica's death.
A nurse practitioner was among those who escorted her back to the other side of the prison because she was so distressed.
"I couldn't understand why I hadn't been filled in when I'd arrived for my shift in the morning that she'd passed," she said.
Ms Hills said she suggested to her regional manager she give a statement about her assessment of Veronica, and then - after he suggested they do it another time - she asked once more, but it never eventuated.
"He didn't want my statement," Ms Hills said.
The nurse said there was a "clear hierarchy" at the prison between the doctor who first assessed Veronica and other nurses. Ms Hills said she worked between 60 and 70 shifts with him and he often disregarded patients' suggestions of what they needed.
One corrections officer said the doctor said words to the effect of, "how many prisoners do we see withdrawing - she needs to stop asking, we can't do anything else," the coroner heard.
A barrister representing Ms Hills' employer Correct Care put to the nurse Veronica was not in the "dire" state she had suggested when she arrived at the prison - unable to sit upright and confused.
Erin Gardner played CCTV to the court of Veronica walking down the prison's hallways around the time of her first medical assessment and sitting up in her bed to take medicine.
Ms Gardner suggested if Veronica was truly in such an "extreme state", Ms Hills would have done more to help her, including calling an ambulance despite the doctor's earlier refusal to do so.
She said it was not Correct Care's practice to take statements from staff when they were distressed.
She played audio to the court of Veronica calling corrections staff through an intercom and saying, "I feel sick in the stomach". A corrections officer responded, "Yep, you've just got to wait for that Maxolon to kick in".
Ms Hills said: "She's extremely unwell ... and the corrections staff are giving medical advice ... [when] they're not medically trained."
The hearing, which is expected to run for five weeks, is examining the adequacy of prison healthcare, the impact of Veronica's Aboriginality in her death and Victorian bail laws.