Muzzled and broken: family speaks out
The children of the security guard assaulted and seriously injured at Waikato Hospital have criticised Allied Security and the Waikato District Health Board for failing to keep her safe.
The guard suffered a broken arm and required surgery for multiple facial fractures after the assault.
“It was a pretty big shock. I didn’t know what to say to be honest,” says her son, Carl Harney.
“There are a lot of questions. She should have been safe, but she wasn’t. There should have been a lot more safety measures.”
Her daughter, Tajuana (pron. Tay-jana) Eltringham says when she saw the state of her mother after the assault, she fled from the ward.
“I burst into tears and walked out, it was a massive shock seeing my mum like that,” she says.
Harder still was telling her two younger siblings, aged 7 and 9, what had happened to their mum.
“I had to explain why she wasn’t coming home and why they couldn’t see her – the bruising and stuff – I couldn’t let two young kids see her that way,” says Tajuana.
Both Carl and Tajuana say their mother had several close calls before the assault.
“There are a lot of the guards, not just my mum, who say they’re not safe. That guy shouldn’t have been on that ward,” says Carl.
“There are a lot of people you could blame, the person who did it obviously, but then Allied and the DHB after that.”
“Allied are useless,” says Tajuana. “They don’t look after their staff. They never have.”
Carl Harney is also angry about a media muzzle imposed by Allied on its security guards, which means his mother can’t speak for herself.
“I’m pretty pissed off about it,” says Carl. “I think everyone should have that right to talk, she should have that right.”
He says his mother loves her job at Waikato Hospital: “She loves the people she works with and she loves working at the hospital.”
But Carl and Tajuana were very concerned about her extremely long hours. Both say their mother was constantly “harassed” to work during her time off.
“She got called in on every single day off. Mum is never home. She gets harassed even when she’s told them she’s not available to work. The big bosses – they don’t understand. They just think, ‘Yeah, you can work’.
“The fact the guards are underpaid and under-staffed is the other thing because you have to work those hours because of the low wages.”
Meanwhile, he says his mother is “up and down. She’s pretty tired most of the time. She’s pretty much lost her independence.”
E tū senior organiser, Iriaka Rauhihi says Allied Security’s media ban is preventing guards from speaking up about important health and safety issues.
“They should have the right to voice their legitimate concerns about this, but they don’t,” she says. “How can health and safety be improved with a culture of muzzling those on the front line?
“All Allied guards have been told not to speak to media – they know that means they could lose their jobs if they do.”