IMH nurse jailed 6 months for kicking intellectually disabled patient

Singapore’s State Courts. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

When an intellectually disabled patient refused to get up from the floor in a ward, an Institute of Mental Health (IMH) nurse kicked him four times in the back before dragging him to his bed.

S Ahmad Shazaly S Affindy, 27, was jailed six months on Thursday (21 June) after he pleaded guilty to one count of voluntarily causing hurt to the 56-year-old patient, who cannot communicate verbally.

The staff nurse in charge of the ward was fired due to the incident and is now driving with Uber for a living. He first joined IMH as a junior staff nurse in 2013.

The incident occurred when Shazaly was on duty on 17 May last year. The patient ate his lunch without incident but he later threw his empty tray at a nurse. The tray missed the nurse, who informed Shazaly about the incident.

Shazaly took him back to his ward with the intention of restraining the patient. As the nurse was opening the door to the dormitory, the patient lay on the floor sideways and refused to move, prompting Shazaly to kick him on his back.

As the patient still did not get up, Shazaly grabbed his shirt collar and dragged him for about two metres before hauling him up on his feet. CCTV footage played in court showed the entire incident, which was witnessed by a cleaner.

Later that day, one of the nurses observed that the patient’s right hand was swollen. An X-ray on his hand showed that his right little finger was fractured.

The next day, IMH staff reviewed CCTV footage and found out about the incident. The incident was not the cause of the fracture, according to an internal investigation.

A manager at IMH separately lodged a police report about the incident.

The prosecution asked for a sentence of at least eight months for Shazaly given that he was in a position of authority over the patient.

“Instead of discharging his duties properly, he assaulted the victim in a humiliating manner,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor Zhuo Wenzhao, adding that the patient was vulnerable as he couldn’t communicate the harm done to him.

The DPP added that IMH nursing staff are trusted to use their powers in a proper manner and the case would have affected the public’s confidence in the institution.

Shazaly’s lawyer, Irving Choh, said that his client lost his cool on the day of the incident due to several factors, including stress from his work and personal circumstances. He had been frustrated with his family for cutting him off after he decided to marry a foreigner.

The patient’s violent and difficult reactions during the incident had also frightened other patients and staff, according to Choh.

“The loss of my client’s livelihood is already enough punishment for an incident that was completely out of character and a lapse of judgment for him,” said Choh, who asked for two months’ jail.

District Judge Jasvender Kaur rejected the defence’s suggested jail term as it failed to reflect “the gravity of the matter” since the patient was vulnerable.

For his offence, Shazaly could have been fined up to two years, fined $5,000, or both.