Psychiatric worker dismissed for attacking patient

By Brendan Manning

Takataka was dismissed after he put a young austistic patient in a headlock. Photo / Thinkstock
Takataka was dismissed after he put a young austistic patient in a headlock. Photo / Thinkstock

A psychiatric assistant who forced a young autistic patient to the ground and held him in a head lock was justifiably dismissed, the Employment Relations Authority has ruled.

Lopiseni Lataimoana Takataka had been working at a regional forensic psychiatric and rehabilitation service run by the Waikato District Health Board (WDHB) for just over two years when the incident occurred.

The service ran a specialist centre in Hamilton, caring for individuals who had a mental disorder which had led to criminal offending.

At the time of the incident on March 2, the patient - identified in the authority's determination only as 'Patient X' - was in an outside courtyard and had been asked by another senior psychiatric assistant to come inside.

Mr Takataka had read the patient's clinical notes prior to commencing his shift and knew the young autistic patient was "out of sorts".

When he overheard his colleague's request, he approached Patient X, who came inside.

Mr Takataka then swore at the patient for being outside and not coming in when asked and shouldered the patient, who walked away.

Mr Takataka closely followed the patient while swearing at him saying "don't you f****** pull this f****** shit on my shift" and "you need to learn".

Mr Takataka was told by his senior colleague to leave the patient alone.

Patient X then stopped, turned towards Mr Takataka and told him to "f*** off", which resulted in Mr Takataka physically forcing him to the ground and holding him in a head lock.

Mr Takataka was told by three co-workers to get off the patient and had to be pulled off him.

Following the incident, Patient X laid a complaint of assault.

Mr Takataka was suspended on March 6 while the WDHB conducted its investigation, and on April 8 he was summarily dismissed for serious misconduct.

Mr Takataka accepted he swore at Patient X, but said he had only done so because the patient had sworn at him and he was talking to him on the "same level".

He denied being the aggressor and claimed he followed the patient to ensure he was ok.

He said he only "took down" Patient X when he became isolated and was attacked.

While there were a few variations in witness' statements, the WDHB concluded the incident occurred largely in the way described by the witnesses and Patient X, and not in the way described by Mr Takataka. The authority concurred.

Employment Relations Authority member Anna Fitzgibbon said the dismissal of Mr Takataka by the Waikato District Health Board was justified.

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