Security 'infeasible' at SA outback clinic

Kathryn Bermingham

A director of the outback health council where murdered nurse Gayle Woodford worked says it would have been too expensive to employ security guards to protect staff - but admits the safeguard was never costed.

Professor Paul Torzillo, medical director of the Nganampa Health Council, told an inquest into Ms Woodford's death that he recalled safety being raised as a concern in the lead-up to the 2016 rape and murder.

The inquest has already heard from Ms Woodford's colleagues that the Far North town of Fregon was lawless, staff would encounter violence almost daily and the community should be shut down for the safety of residents.

But Dr Torzillo said senior management discussions about the possibility of a security guard were brief because "we all had the same view about feasibility".

"The primary reason that was not implemented was the cost would never have been funded," he said on Thursday.

"The second reason was that nobody else in the sector was doing it, nobody else in the Territory, in Western Australia, in other communities in South Australia had security guards."

"It wasn't anything that was considered and, interestingly, it's still the case that no one in those jurisdictions has security guards."

On day four of the inquest, Dr Torzillo told the coroner it would cost at least $3.5 million to employ fly-in-fly-out security guards across six APY Lands clinics, including Fregon.

But he later admitted there were never any costings done at the time.

"I had been involved in dealing with getting funding from the Commonwealth for this organisation, at that time, for 15 to 20 years," he said.

"There would have been no one in the country who was more experienced and I know ... that we wouldn't have had any chance of getting that funding."

Dr Torzillo said the only way to ensure the safety of staff would have been to strip the town of its healthcare services.

Ms Woodford was found buried in a crude grave three days after she went missing from her Fregon home.

Dudley Davey subsequently pleaded guilty to her rape and murder and is serving a minimum 32-year jail term.

It is believed Davey tricked Ms Woodford, 56, into opening a security cage around her home and overpowered her as she walked to her ambulance.

Ms Woodford's death sparked policy changes designed to protect nurses from similar violent attacks.

Asked about the reforms, known as Gayle's Law, Dr Torzillo said he supported the concept but there had been issues with the rollout.

"I think that the detail of how this would actually be implemented, without comprising it, was not thought out too well by the legislators," he said.

Dr Torzillo said the legislation does not adequately define planned callouts and unplanned callouts, which come under Gayle's Law.

The inquest continues before Deputy Coroner Anthony Schapel.