25 Jan 2017

Accused health worker's colleagues give evidence

8:53 pm on 25 January 2017

Two health workers have told a jury they did not see a colleague say or do anything inappropriate to a patient during an examination at Wellington Hospital in January 2015.

Wellington Hospital.

Wellington Hospital Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

They have been giving evidence at the trial of the man, who is accused of indecently assaulting the patient by kissing her, in the Wellington District Court.

The names of the defendant and his colleagues have been suppressed.

Yesterday, the complainant told the court that, before the kiss, the defendant made several inappropriate comments to her, including while she lay on a gurney in the examination room.

Another medical professional, who was present at the time, said today she had worked with the defendant for a long time and would have noticed if something like that occurred.

She said it would have been inappropriate and she would have had to report him.

The woman said the defendant often made light-hearted jokes with patients to help them feel more relaxed, but she had never heard him say anything inappropriate, rude or sexually suggestive to any patient.

The complainant told the court yesterday the accused man had sat in a position where he could see her genitals, but one of the witnesses said that was unlikely, given where she had seen the man seated.

She said at all times during the examination the patient was covered with a blanket.

"Even though they might feel they are [exposed] the blanket is covering them and we don't look at their bottom, we look at the screen. She might have felt she was exposed ... but during this procedure you're actually not exposed."

The complainant suggested yesterday that the defendant's colleagues might be covering up for him, but the woman giving evidence today denied that.

"Because that would be inappropriate and it's my duty to report things like that and absolutely I would have taken it further. Being a female myself plays a role as well. I'm sensitive to things like that and I didn't notice it at all."

Another health professional who was present during the complainant's examination also gave evidence.

He said he had worked with the defendant for five or six years and the man was very experienced.

The witness said he tried to keep the atmosphere in the examination room as relaxed as possible.

"It's not a pleasant procedure and we try to make people at ease as much as possible so there may be some light-hearted banter about the weather or the day or the procedure or any of those things."

The witness said it was unavoidable that health workers would have to touch patients and he would not have taken any notice of that.