‘Extremely agitated’ patient pulls gun on GP

Michelle Wisbey

11/01/2024 2:35:14 PM

The RACGP is urging members to seek out support after police shot and killed a man who had held a GP hostage for parts of a ‘terrifying’ two-hour stand-off.

Close up of side of police car.
Dozens of emergency crews swarmed to the scene outside the medical clinic at Nowra.

Police are calling for witnesses to come forward after a patient pulled a gun on a Nowra GP before being fatally shot by authorities.
New South Wales Police was called to the South Coast clinic around 1.00 pm on Wednesday, following urgent calls from staff still inside the Junction Street practice.
Dozens of emergency vehicles swarmed to the scene after staff reported the 34-year-old patient had produced a firearm while speaking with his GP.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter said the man was known to the medical centre and its staff.
‘During conversations with the doctor, the man has become extremely agitated and spoke of many alarming things,’ he said.
‘During that conversation and unprovoked, he produced the firearm.
‘Throughout the next little while, there are about four people who were able to make their escape from inside the doctor’s surgery which left the gunman alone.’
Authorities confirmed the man was known to police through ‘psychological medical episodes which have required our intervention’.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins described the incident as ‘traumatic and triggering’.
‘Our hearts go out to our colleagues and their teams who’ve been affected by this,’ she told newsGP.
‘When you’re in a situation like this it’s terrifying. You can have systems and processes and alarms in place, but these things can escalate quickly and unexpectedly.
‘This is something that happens extremely rarely, but no doctor or their team should ever be injured while they’re in their workplace.’
Prior to the shooting, Assistant Commissioner Cotter said police continued their negotiations with the gunman through the centre’s open doors and windows after the GP and staff members had escaped.
‘Nearly two hours later, the man emerged, and police and he engaged in further conversation but at this stage the man produced the gun and brandished it at police,’ he said.
‘Police at the time were holding a ballistic shield, that ballistic shield was dropped during this initial confrontation and the police retreated.
‘The man picked up the shield, further brandished the gun, raising it in the air and raising it at police and a number of shots were fired by police in the direction of the man.’
The man died at the scene and no other injuries were reported.
Dr Higgins encouraged GPs to reach out to the college if they need help in the aftermath of this incident.
‘This is a rarity in our practices, but we need to make sure that we have the systems and processes in place to protect our staff and our doctors as much as we can,’ she said.
‘Reach out, talk to your colleagues, and the RACGP is here to support you.
‘Then in the aftermath of this, ensure your colleagues are supported as they return to work.’
Mental health consultations are one of the most common for GPs across Australia, making up around 38% of all bookings each week.
The proportion of GPs reporting psychological factors as the main reason for patient presentation also continues to grow, up from 61% in 2017 to 72% last year.
Dr Higgins said that while this was a one-off tragedy, most GPs will have experienced situations in their consulting rooms or practices which have made them uncomfortable.
‘It makes it really difficult for practices and teams to be able to show that we can look after our staff when we have patients behaving poorly,’ she said.
‘What we need to remember is the richness and quality of the relationships we have with our patients who come from all walks of life and are undergoing different challenges.’
Police say several people were in the vicinity who may have witnessed the incident and are calling for anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers.
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Dr Ian Rivlin   12/01/2024 6:43:25 AM

I had a knife pulled on me in 1989. My blood ran cold. I "talked him down" eventually and he left. Never saw him again.
Scariest thing ever

Dr Roger Jeffrey Smith   12/01/2024 2:12:28 PM

I’ve had a patient, holding a knife to my throat, demanding a prescription for opioids, which I provided. The patient left my practice then was picked up by Police at the pharmacist across the road . Also another patient who threatened to cave in my skull with a paperweight, if I did not provide a medical certificate so that he did not have to attend his pending court case, the certificate was provided to the individual . Later I notified the authorities . The joys of general practice.

A.Prof Christopher David Hogan   12/01/2024 6:43:07 PM

I was threatened with a rifle in my face, was at a scene where shots were fired, was threatened by a bladed weapon, assaulted by a drunk on a home visit & was picked up and thrown by an idiot high on ice. One of the other doctors in our surgery was king hit without warning .
We redesigned our surgery, installed alarms had whole of practice meetings to recognise , calm & respond to urgent incidents & regularly rehearsed.
I understand that there will be an application made for the presentation of a GP 24 workshop on Practice Safety

Dr Fiona Jane Henneuse-Blunt   13/01/2024 4:50:19 AM

This must have been terrifying for all involved. While on call on an island in Scotland, I was on my own in the cottage hospital with one nurse and the radiologist who had been called in for a girl's DV sustained head injury. Her Partner turned violent when with us , throwing around equipment and threatening to hurt us if we continued to treat her. We all managed to lock ourselves with patient in the radiologist room while the Police were called. All of us were female except the offender and felt very vulnerable.