Former Cairns Hospital social worker Jane Hobby is suing the CHHHS after suffering psychological injuries after the Ravenshoe cafe blast. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Former Cairns Hospital social worker Jane Hobby is suing the CHHHS after suffering psychological injuries after the Ravenshoe cafe blast. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

The day my life changed: worker sues over tragic cafe blast

A FORMER Cairns Hospital social worker who worked 13 hours straight supporting the victims and families of the Ravenshoe cafe blast is suing the hospital for what she claimed was mismanagement of the disaster.

Jane Hobby, 45, has been forced to quit her job and claimed the health service breached its duty of care to her, which caused her to suffer a significant psychological injuries.

She said she would never be able to work as a social worker again and has submitted a claim in the Cairns District Court for just over $841,000.

Hospital staff wait at the Cairns Hospital as the two most critical patients are flown to the hospital from the Serves You Right cafe fire at Ravenshoe in November 2016. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS
Hospital staff wait at the Cairns Hospital as the two most critical patients are flown to the hospital from the Serves You Right cafe fire at Ravenshoe in November 2016. PICTURE: ANNA ROGERS

She alleges in the claim that her immediate supervisor left at 5pm on the day of the blast, did not want to roster on extra social workers to assist and told her: "Don't think that just because this is a disaster that either of you (Ms Hobby and a colleague) will get overtime."

Seven patients and their families ended up in Cairns Hospital on the first day.

Ms Hobby's claim says some of her tasks that day included providing support to those people in the Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit, preparing family to see patients with severe burns and answering all calls made to the hospital about the blast.

"The frequency of the phone calls were such that (Ms Hobby) was required to take a further phone call virtually as soon as the last phone call ended," the claim said.

Speaking to the Cairns Post, Ms Hobby said the day changed her life.

The Ravenshoe cafe gas explosion was the largest mass burns incident in Queensland history, with a large number of medical professionals involved in the treatment of patients. Cairns Hospital social worker Jane Hobby treated the injured patients after the blast. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
The Ravenshoe cafe gas explosion was the largest mass burns incident in Queensland history, with a large number of medical professionals involved in the treatment of patients. Cairns Hospital social worker Jane Hobby treated the injured patients after the blast. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

"I went from being what I thought was a capable social worker … to not being able to work," she said. "I can't regulate my emotions enough to be calm for other people."

She said that prior to the incident, the hospital had no plan in place for social workers in the event of a major incident, so after it was over, she began working on one and created a 50-page document.

However, she said that when she quit in November 2016, there was still nothing in place.

"I also wasn't even given the opportunity to debrief or get support for myself at all," she said.

A Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service spokeswoman said the service could not comment on the claim as it was before the court, but staff welfare was taken "extremely seriously".

"Various actions were taken to support staff in the wake of this terrible incident, including debriefing sessions," she said.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers senior associate Julian Brown, who is representing Ms Hobby, said his client would now live with long-lasting mental health impacts.

A court date is yet to be set.



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