Katanning Hospital in legal fight

Saskia AdystiGreat Southern Herald

An indigenous security company in Katanning is in a legal dispute with the operators of Katanning Hospital.

Katanning Security Services was contracted to provide various security measures at Katanning Hospital, run by WA Country Health Service, however the company claims the hospital has since failed to fulfil various aspects of the contract.

Roy and Paula Cole, who run Katanning Security Services, said the hospital had stopped using their services for more than a year despite their agreement of a minimum of 30 hours of monthly paid work.

The company claimed they were ill-treated by hospital management and have decided to take the matter into court.

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“We didn’t want to go down the legal procedure — we went through two years of internal dispute resolution — but they keep saying that there’s no problem,” Mr Cole said.

Mrs Cole said they had spent all their savings during the internal dispute resolution process and had to let go of all their staff.

“We used to be one of the biggest employers in town and employed 22 workers — now it’s only me and Roy working,” Mrs Cole said.

“It’s hard enough in a small town like this to get a job for any indigenous people — for any people, really.”

The contract states Katanning Security Services would provide Katanning Hospital with mobile security patrols, patient super-vision and alarm-monitoring services.

However, Mr Cole claims the hospital has used hospital staff and local police services to provide these security measures in hospital grounds.

“They’ve got a 17-year-old boy guarding outside the room — basically, it’s patient guarding but they’re not really trained for that,” he said.

A WA Country Health Service Great Southern spokeswoman said the service was unable to comment on the claims because it was engaged in discussions with lawyers.

However, WA Country Health Services acknowledged the hospital was using clinical staff to manage aggressive patients and had provided staff with training for patient aggression and violence management.

In December 2016, then shadow health minister Roger Cook asked the State Government to further investigate “cost-cutting measures” at Katanning Hospital after Mr Cole alerted him about the issue. “My understanding is that the services provided by the company were effective and efficient, but that cost-cutting measures have pushed the security duties on to clinical staff rather than accredited security officers,” Mr Cook’s letter said. Mr Cook is now health minister. His office said it could no longer comment since the issue had become a legal dispute.

Mr and Mrs Cole said most of their staff had gone onto unemployment benefit or work-for-the-dole programs.

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