A nursing assistant who was attacked by a patient at the St Ann’s Hospital over a plate of food has sued the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) for negligence and compensation.

Charlene Khan, a nursing assistant, was serving meals at the hospital in December 2017 when a patient became infuriated when he could not get more food.

Khan was hit in the back of the neck. In an attempt to protect herself, she grabbed the patient’s fists and they both fell to the ground and the patient stamped on her and kicked her.

Khan and is claiming compensation for personal injuries caused by the negligence of the authority to provide a safe place of work. She is also seeking special damages to cover medical treatment.

After she was kicked and stamped on for several minutes, hospital staff eventually pulled the patient off her.

Khan's claim alleges she was left to fend for herself while she distributed meals to patients, as there were no security guards or other staff to supervise patients while she did her job.

After the incident, a doctor was called to examine her and she was given seven days’ sick leave. Still in pain, she went to another staff doctor and got eight more days with a recommendation to wear a soft collar to relieve her pain.

Her condition did not improve, and she went to the St James Hospital, where doctors said she should not do any kind of overhead work or lift heavy objects for a month. She was taken off the wards and put in the infection control office to do light tasks such as paperwork.

Khan was put back on ward duty in 2919 but after a month began experiencing more pain. It was again recommended that she avoid heavy tasks, and an occupational health assessment said she was fit to work, but with job modification.

Her claim said she is still suffering from pain in her neck, shoulder and back, has been to physiotherapy since 2018 and had an MRI done which showed there was muscle spasm in her cervical spine and mild degenerative changes.

Khan has also been prescribed a cocktail of pain medication to manage what she described as her “mind-numbing” pain.

Her claim said as welll as being in pain, she cannot lift heavy objects and experiences discomfort if she sits or stands for too long. Because of the pain, the movement of her neck has also been restricted and her once-active lifestyle has been affected, as well as her job as an assistant nurse, since she cannot lift patients as she once could, or bend.

Her lawsuit alleges the NWRHA failed to provide a safe place and system of work for distributing meals and failed to take steps to ensure that particular duty would be safe, given the dangers associated with interacting with patients at the St Ann’s Hospital.

Khan is represented by attorneys Martin George and Sarah Lawrence.

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