Shellharbour mental health unit closes for review after death

FILE PICTURE: Shellharbour Hospital
FILE PICTURE: Shellharbour Hospital

A full work, health and safety review will be conducted before Shellharbour Hospital’s Eloura West mental health facility is reopened following the alleged murder of 47-year-old Joseph Gumley.

Police allege Paul Hindmarsh, 31, fatally assaulted Joseph Gumley, 47, with the dead man’s own electric guitar sometime between 6.30am and 7.50am on Thursday in the hospital’s high dependency mental health ward.

On Friday, the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District issued a statement saying NSW Acting Chief Psychiatrist Scott Clark would visit the district  on Monday to conduct an independent preliminary clinical investigation.

District chief executive Sue Browbank said she extended her deepest condolences to the family of the victim.

‘‘Shellharbour Hospital, in particular the Mental Health Service, experienced a tragedy,’’ she said.

‘‘I acknowledge the significant distress this event has caused to the families of both men, our patients and their families/carers and our staff.  

‘‘We have spoken with the families of both patients and grief counselling and other support have been offered.’’

Unit staff have also been offered ongoing individual counselling, as well as paid leave.

Ms Browbank said those staff who did not want to return to work in the unit would be supported and alternative positions would be sought.

Patients of the unit have been temporarily relocated to facilities in Sydney and other units within ISLHD’s Mental Health Service while investigations continue. 

Staffing levels within other Mental Health services at Shellharbour Hospital  and within Community Mental Health teams have not been affected.