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Liverpool Hospital. Photo: AAP/Angelo Velardo

Colleagues, family seek answers for nurse’s death at work

The family members of a mental health nurse who died while working in a rehabilitation ward in a hospital west of Sydney have spoken about the heartache of knowing so little about the events that led to his death.

Praween Maharaj, a 49 year-old clinical nurse educator, died while working in the mental health unit at Liverpool Hospital after an altercation with a patient.

Early details of Maharaj’s death, which occurred at about 11am on 17 April, were scant but NSW Police said he may have suffered a “medical episode”.

His daughter Komal Maharaj told 9 News the family seeks more information to find closure. “We just don’t know what happened to Dad,” she said. “He went to work that morning and just didn’t come back that afternoon.”

To date, there are reports that Maharaj faced an encounter with a patient who had a history of violence and a nicotine addiction. The two men had an encounter over access to cigarettes, which were kept in the nurse’s station, and Maharaj fell to the ground and may have hit his head.

Maharaj’s colleagues told Sydney Morning Herald that they want to make sure his death was not “swept under the rug”.

The publication also reported that several nurses and a psychiatrist had raised concerns that the patient involved should have been moved to a higher acuity unit with greater security.

Sources also suggested the unit’s layout, low staffing levels and the COVID-19 restrictions may have created an environment that contributed to Maharaj’s death.

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association Brett Holmes told 9 News that the union has heard from its members in other mental health units in the state that they had previously raised concerns about changes to policies that have led to increased levels of agitation.   

Following initial reports of Maharaj’s death, Holmes said: “Nurses never go to work expecting not to return home to their loved ones. It is a heartbreaking tragedy.”

NSW Police has been asked to give the findings of its investigation – one of several separate investigations underway – to the state’s coroners court by August.

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