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Fatigue a contributor to health care worker death

An inquest investigating the 2008 death of a health care worker in rural Western Australia has found fatigue to be a contributing factor.

Annemarie Sweeny, aged 20, died when her car hit a tree on the way home from a night shift at Narembeen Hospital.

According to State Coroner, Alastair Hope, the crash was chiefly caused by a combination of fatigue and prescription insomnia medication used by Ms Sweeny to combat sleep problems associated with her work schedule.

The inquest heard that these sleep problems, which were known by friends and family, led Ms Sweeny to request reassignment to a daytime roster. However, this had been refused.

In light of his findings, Mr Hope proposed that Ms Sweeny’s employer, the WA Country Health Service, introduce policy and training, and make beds available to help manage the fatigue risk faced by staff working shifts.

Ms Sweeney’s father, who has another daughter working in rural health services in Western Australia, urged that the recommendations be adopted to try to avoid future tragedies.

sources: abc.net.au, The West Australian