10 May 2023

Nurses left helpless as men break into Cooktown hospital

| Sarah Martin
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FRIGHTENED staff are calling for a security boost after armed and masked intruders prowled through the Cooktown Hospital for a terrifying half hour before police arrived.

Cooktown Police have arrested two local men following the incident, which occurred in the early hours of Thursday, but the hospital’s security is being described as inadequate.

“One was wearing a balaclava and the other had his shirt over his head and they carried a hammer and a screwdriver,” a friend of a staff member, who did not wish to be named, told Cape York Weekly.

“There are three nurses on at nights, and they were watching them through the CCTV; the men tried all the doors and eventually found one they could dismantle.

“Staff immediately called 000; one of the nurses was not taking it well, she was in hysterics.”

The frightened trio and their ward full of patients, including a baby, spent a tense half hour watching the burglars stalk through the hospital and break into an office, then disappear shortly before police arrived.

Police spotted a man fleeing the scene but, after a short foot chase, he managed to escape into bush near the hospital.

Relief for hospital staff was short-lived, however, with the men returning and walking towards the ward as soon as police left.

A brave nurse’s shouting may have been what scared them away the second time, with police again arriving shortly after.

“She was shouting, everyone was awake, the baby was screaming, they took a few steps down the corridor then left before the police came again,” the friend said.

“The police had to be called back a third time because one of the men was then seen wandering around the Community Health building (next door to the hospital).”

However, Cooktown Multi Purpose Health Service director of nursing and facility manager Vikki Jackson said the incident had occurred well away from patients and staff.

“As standard practice, we will be reviewing security at Cooktown MPHS to ensure it remains appropriate to our requirements,” Ms Jackson said in a statement.

“The important thing is that all patients and staff are safe and no one was harmed or directly threatened as a result.”

Ms Jackson said suitably qualified security were difficult to source in remote areas, and a number of measures were in place to ensure patient and staff security and safety.

“A close relationship is maintained with local police and at all our facilities measures are in place such as fencing, security screens, swipe card access and duress alarms.”

Cooktown Police officer in charge, Senior Sergeant John McArthur, said officers wasted no time in tracking down and arresting the alleged offenders.

“After reviewing CCTV footage, police executed a search warrant at a Cooktown residence where evidence implicating two males was allegedly located,” he said.

Two local men, aged 20 and 25, have been charged with breaking and entering the hospital and are due to appear in the Cooktown Magistrates’ Court in January.

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