NURSES at Swan District Hospital are demanding immediate protection after a violent psychiatric patient went berserk yesterday morning.

Staff at the hospital’s mental health unit abandoned the nursing post after a distressed patient used a chair to smash his way out of a secure area.

The rampage follows the March bashing of nurse Debbie Freeman, who suffered brain damage when a patient stomped on her head and body at the Swan Health Service.

A second nurse was also injured during the attack on Ms Freeman.

Australian Nurses Federation president secretary Mark Olson said yesterday’s incident highlighted staff demands for security guards at the hospital. Hospital management had agreed to upgrade security but not as soon as nurses wanted.

“Nurses working at Swan District mental health unit have genuine concerns for their safety,” he said.

“The fact that management is prepared to put it off for three months shows they are not taking security seriously.

“This latest incident clearly demonstrates something needs to be done now.”

East Metropolitan mental health director Dr Mark Rooney denied staff were in any danger during yesterday’s rampage.

“Unfortunately, aggressive incidents of this kind do occur from time to time within a secure unit,” he said.

“The decision has already been made to recruit security for the hospital.

“We have said that will happen by the end of June but sooner if possible.

“We need people with the right skills and experience.”

The patient involved in yesterday’s incident became agitated after being admitted to a ward shortly after midnight.

He broke a plastic plate and threatened to slash his throat before smashing furniture in the room.

The man then used a chair to break a glass window separating the room and nursing post.

Police were called to subdue the man, who was handcuffed before being sedated by a doctor.

Nurses had picketed the hospital on Wednesday to protest against the time being taken by management to respond to their security demands.

Health Minister Jim McGinty said attacks on hospital staff demonstrated the need for significant security improvements in the mental health unit and emergency ward.