Jail guard sacked for sleeping
Guard sacked: Acacia Prison. Picture: The West Australian

A prison officer has been sacked and another disciplined after Royal Perth Hospital staff complained they were asleep instead of guarding a prisoner in a ward.

The inmate had been taken from medium-security Acacia Prison to the 855-bed public hospital in Perth's city centre.

Staff there contacted the jail, run by private company Serco, to report the officers were sleeping instead of watching the prisoner.

The incident emerged only a week after _The Weekend West _revealed Acacia Prison was in lockdown after authorities failed to find tools used to cut a hole in a fence intended for a breakout.

Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon said the two officers were suspended while the prison's managers investigated the complaint.

After this inquiry and a disciplinary hearing, one was dismissed and the other given a written final warning.

Mr McMahon said he had asked Acacia Prison management what action it took to prevent the lapse happening again.

More than 6000 medical escorts were made from WA jails in the past year, with inmates going to doctors, hospital admissions and emergency departments.

Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong called for action to prevent a repeat of the incident.

"Prisoners should get equal access to health care but there is a level of reassurance and reliance that we place on prison officers when these prisoners are being treated because we don't know anything about the background of their crimes," he said.

Australian Nursing Federation State secretary Mark Olson said nurses had enough to do without the added responsibility of guarding prisoners.

"The hospital managers and executives have put a lot of effort into improving the safety of our hospitals at night," he said.

"It's a tough enough job maintaining security at our hospitals at the best of times."

The Department of Corrective Services said it was policy for Acacia inmates to be guarded by at least two officers and to be restrained or handcuffed to the hospital bed.

Prison Officers Union secretary John Welch said it had lodged an unfair dismissal claim on behalf of the sacked officer, who denied he had been asleep.

He said there was a continuing concern about "hospital sits" because of staff shortages. It meant officers had to fill in and some "sits" lasted 24 or 36 hours.


The West Australian

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