Tas hospital 'omitted' nurse abuse claims

·3-min read

A hospital in Tasmania failed to escalate allegations and "rumours" of abuse during investigations into a pedophile nurse who had worked on the children's ward for almost two decades, an inquiry has been told.

James Geoffrey Griffin died by suicide in October 2019 after being charged with multiple child sexual abuse offences.

An inquiry into child sexual abuse has been told of "catastrophic failures" in Launceston General Hospital's handling of complaints and concerns about Griffin.

Director of medical services, Peter Renshaw, conceded the hospital was misleading in a briefing sent to the relevant government department head after Griffin's death.

The November 2019 briefing said the hospital had not received any complaints from patients or families about Griffin that would warrant a code of conduct investigation or notifications to regulators or police.

During questioning on Thursday, Dr Renshaw said he was at the time aware of an allegation Griffin had abused a 12-year-old former patient outside the hospital.

He also said he believed a "corridor rumour" relating to a hospital staffer being abused by Griffin as a child.

When asked if that level of information should have been included in the briefing, Dr Renshaw said he understood the department was taking the lead on investigations.

"At the time the hospital was rife with rumour," he said.

"It was just one of those situations where the amount of information was pretty much overwhelming."

Hospital human resources manager, James Bellinger, denied there had been a cover-up attempt.

Mr Bellinger was in October 2019 made aware of an abuse disclosure made to the hospital in 2011 against Griffin by Kylee Pearn.

Ms Pearn, who worked alongside Griffin, disclosed to hospital human resources in 2011 she had been abused by Griffin as a child.

Mr Bellinger said Ms Pearn's disclosure wasn't included in the briefing, or in a subsequent internal review, or in information provided to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation or state Integrity Commission.

"My involvement may not have been adequate. Cover-up implies there was an intent," he said.

"There was not an intent to bury it. I accept more should have been done."

The inquiry has previously been told Mr Bellinger may have been at the meeting with Ms Pearn in 2011. He claims to have no recollection of the meeting.

The inquiry was read an email Mr Bellinger sent to a former colleague the night before he gave evidence at an earlier June hearing that signed off with "we fly as one".

Dr Renshaw, who has been at the hospital for decades, was also asked about the alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl by a male doctor in 2001.

He said it was "unlikely" to have occurred because of the hospital layout.

Stephen Ayre, chief of the hospital from 2004 to 2008, indicated he didn't launch an investigation into a historical child sexual abuse claim because he believed the matter was "too old".

Dr Ayre handled a complaint in 2005 made by Ben Felton, who alleged he was sexually assaulted by a practitioner in 1989.

"I had the information there was no police information that we were able to use. There was no other information that was able to be found," he said.

"It would be the verbal recollections et cetera of people from 1989 essentially."

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