Tribunal backs hospital over sacked guard's slap

IT IS a slap that has reverberated - but this time around a real-life hospital, rather than a fictional party.

In January, Royal Melbourne Hospital security officer Sahran ''Sam'' Guneyi was called on to respond to an aggressive, drunk female patient.

The woman had told security staff and nurses she was going to punch ''someone'', and then threatened to hit Mr Guneyi. Instead of standing back, the security officer stood his ground and was punched.

Mr Guneyi, according to a ruling this week by an industrial relations tribunal, slapped the patient in response. She was not hurt.

Mr Guneyi argued he had not slapped the woman but had pushed her spontaneously when he was hit - and that this was essentially self-defence.

But the hospital took a dim view of what had happened and sacked the security officer.

Mr Guneyi argued before the industrial tribunal that the dismissal was unfair.

However, Fair Work Australia has agreed with Royal Melbourne, this week upholding the hospital's decision to fire Mr Guneyi.

Deputy president Reg Hamilton ruled that slapping a patient in response to having been punched was not an acceptable response.

''Standing within striking distance after a threat of violence, and then retaliating with a slap, is not desirable conduct,'' Mr Hamilton said.

A nurse who saw the incident described it as an assault, Mr Hamilton's ruling said.

Royal Melbourne Hospital's guidelines say staff should respond to a ''code grey'' - any aggressive behaviour - by protecting and defending themselves without causing unnecessary harm to the attacker.

The tribunal found Mr Guneyi should have either moved back or attempted to restrain the patient. ''He did neither but stood there and was punched hard,'' Mr Hamilton said. ''He then compounded the situation by retaliating with a physical act of his own, namely a slap, although it did not injure the patient.''

The deputy president sympathised with Mr Guneyi, saying the security guard was doing ''a difficult job in unpleasant circumstances'' and the conduct of the patient was unacceptable.

Sally Campbell, executive director of Melbourne Health, said the hospital group did not tolerate verbal or physical aggression from its staff, or patients, and that violence in hospitals was an ''extremely serious issue''. Mr Guneyi could not be reached for comment.

This story Tribunal backs hospital over sacked guard's slap first appeared on The Age.