Wilfred Lopes dispute halts Jamie Gregory McCrossen's transfer

A Risdon Prison inmate with “dangerous criminal” status has been left in limbo, after his pending transfer to the prison’s psychiatric facility hit a snag when workers implemented an industrial strike.

This was despite the Tasmanian Supreme Court stating Jamie Gregory McCrossen’s immediate transfer to the Wilfred Lopes Centre was “essential”.

In 1990, when McCrossen was 18-years-old, he was jailed for holding up an antique store with an antique pistol.

He was subsequently placed on the dangerous criminal registry in 1991, after he sent death threats to his victim from jail.

On Tuesday, Wilfred Lopes Centre chief forensic psychiatrist Hadrian Ball told the Hobart Supreme Court that McCrossen’s prospective admission to the facility had encountered an obstacle.

Dr Ball said the Department of Health and Human Services had received formal notification of the industrial action on September 21.

A feature of the action is a ban on admissions to the centre.

Community and Public Sector Union state secretary Tom Lynch said the action – a joint initiative of the CPSU, the Health and Community Services Union and the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation – was a response to staff at the centre feeling unsafe.

“The situation’s now untenable,” Mr Lynch said.

He claimed workers were running the centre with 17 fewer staff than was required.

Mr Lynch said he had met with management on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

Wilfred Lopes management is now in the process of coming up with a proposal for how the centre can be run safely going forward.

Mr Lynch did not have a time-frame for a potential resolution to the dispute.

A Tasmanian Health Service spokesman said the service was “extremely disappointed” that the action had been taken when management was seeking to fill the vacancies the unions had highlighted.

“The THS ... acknowledges the work of staff while efforts to recruit to these vacancies continues,” the spokesman said.

“The THS urges the union to rethink its action, given that recruitment is ongoing.”

Justice Helen Wood said McCrossen’s admission to Wilfred Lopes was meant to occur in August, more than a month before the DHHS received notification of the industrial action.

“The court has been waiting for some weeks now,” she said.

Justice Wood noted that McCrossen had experienced a deterioration in his mental state and was struggling with self-care.

She also said he had poor eyesight and fragile physical health.

Dr Ball said the delay in McCrossen’s transfer was due to the high dependency unit at Wilfred Lopes being “disturbed” of late.

“The view was taken that it would not have been safe for Mr McCrossen to be admitted at that time,” he said.

Dr Ball apologised to McCrossen, who appeared via video-link from the prison, for the delay in his admission.

“It’s not your fault,” McCrossen said.

Justice Wood told Dr Ball that McCrossen’s needs were “pressing”.

“We’re just in your hands, really,” she said.

McCrossen’s counsel Kate Cuthbertson said her client’s admission to Wilfred Lopes needed to “remain a priority” once the industrial dispute was resolved.

The matter was adjourned until October 6.