SINGAPORE, Jan 19 — After hearing that a patient with schizophrenia had splashed urine at his colleague, an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) nurse retaliated by repeatedly splashing the patient’s face with hand sanitiser.
The long-term patient at the public psychiatric hospital is 58 years old. When the patient got agitated, the nurse then punched the patient’s face while his colleagues helped to pin the patient to the wheelchair.
Malaysian Muhammad Ihsan Mahmud, 32, was jailed nine weeks yesterday after admitting to one count each of using criminal force and causing hurt to a vulnerable person.
Playing with urine container
On December 8, 2019 in the morning, the victim was playing with another patient’s urine receptacle and splashed some urine on attending nurse Rohan Zephaniah.
After he heard about the incident from Rohan, Ihsan went up to the victim — who was at the time confined to his wheelchair with a restraint at one part of his body — and splashed his face with hand sanitiser. He repeated this twice.
He also tried to elbow the victim while attending to another patient, but missed.
The victim then started to cause a disturbance and two of Ihsan’s colleagues, 60-year-old health attendant Sadasivam Kannan and 24-year-old nurse Iylia Muhammad Afiq Nor Effendi, helped Ihsan to convert the patient’s one-point restraint to a three-point restraint.
When the patient got agitated and started turning aggressive, Ihsan punched him twice around his eyes and kicked the patient’s shin.
One of the nurses later discovered bruises on the victim’s eye and Ihsan reported the injuries to IMH’s management.
The patient was taken to the Singapore General Hospital in the afternoon and was found to also have fractured his toe.
Ihsan’s assault was caught on surveillance cameras and five days later, a human resources manager at IMH made a police report against the three men for physically attacking the victim.
In an emailed response to queries, an IMH spokesman said that the three men are no longer working at the institute.
The other two men are being investigated in relation to this incident and the outcome is pending.
“Following the incident, IMH further reinforced to staff our culture of accountability and reporting issues so that steps can be taken to address them early. More frequent reviews were also held to discuss difficult cases in the ward,” the spokesman said.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Phoebe Tan said that Ihsan had breached his trust and duty of care owed to the victim, who was unable to articulate the harm inflicted on him.
That Ihsan was a nurse specifically tasked to look after such a vulnerable victim undermines the public’s confidence in public healthcare in Singapore, she added.
Seeking leniency from the judge, Ihsan — who was not represented by a lawyer — said that he has three young children living with his wife in Johor Baru, Malaysia.
“My daughter, who is five, is a special needs child. My wife has been suffering from depression after the birth of my daughter and her condition is getting worse,” he said, adding that he is now unemployed.
“I’m sorry for committing these offences. I wish to be sentenced today and have closure and move forward.”
IMH’s spokesman said that the institute has apologised and provided support to the patient and his family.
The patient, who remains in IMH’s care for his psychiatric condition, has also recovered from his bruises.
Since the incident, its nursing management team now joins the ward nurses and patients in their weekly community meetings to hear feedback from the patients directly.
“IMH would like to reiterate that patient safety and well-being are a top priority at the hospital,” the spokesman said.
“Our staff are trained to observe and monitor the patients under their care for any change in behaviour and to look out for any injuries because sometimes, patients may fall or injure themselves. Any injury that is unexplained is thoroughly investigated.”
For using criminal force against a vulnerable person, Ihsan could have been jailed up to fourth-and-a-half months or fined up to S$2,250 (RM6,855), or punished with both. For hurting a vulnerable person, he could have been jailed up to three years or fined up to S$7,500, or both. ― TODAY