Joanne McIntyre

Nurses save surgeon

Brave nurses who helped save a surgeon’s life

It was 8.30am on February 18 when Western Hospital nurse Joanne McIntyre heard a commotion outside her office and went to see what was going on.

A nurse for 41 years, Ms McIntyre was so focused on the injured man lying on the floor that at first she did not even see the man with a knife standing nearby. Nor did Ms McIntyre realize the injured man was Dr Michael Wong, the hospital’s chief neurosurgeon, who had just been stabbed 14 times.

Ms McIntyre and patient Andrew Di Lollo both tried to distract the attacker so they could get medical help for Dr Wong.

Dr Wong’s life was saved by the bravery of Ms McIntyre, Mr Di Lollo, fellow Western Hospital nurse Rebecca Barbara, intern Dr Rebecca Biron and technician Vinay Dass, who held an A-frame sign as a barrier between the attacker and Dr Wong, enabling the other members of the group to remove Dr Wong from the scene and rush him to the emergency department.

Security and other staff had arrived by that stage, Ms McIntyre said, and helped shepherd the group to the emergency department, closing doors behind them to ensure their safety.

Ms Barbara, a former emergency department nurse, stayed in the emergency department to assist with Dr Wong’s care, while Ms McIntyre returned to check on her staff.

‘They tell me it didn’t last very long but it seemed to last a very long time,’ Ms McIntyre said.

Ms McIntyre, the manager of Western Hospital’s Nursing and Midwifery Workforce Unit, was concerned that the attacker was still at large and staff she manages were working alone near the main foyer, where the incident occurred.

Asked if she was aware of the risk to her own safety during the incident, Ms McIntyre replied: ‘No, all I saw was an injured man who needed assistance and there was someone standing in my way.’

Ms McIntyre and Ms Barbara, who are both ANMF (Vic Branch) members, and the other good samaritans who intervened to help Dr Wong, have received awards for their bravery from Western Hospital and Royal Melbourne Hospital. They have also all been nominated for the Herald Sun’s Pride of Australia award.

Ms McIntyre said that although she had often nursed victims of violence, it was the first time in her career she had experienced it in the workplace. The incident occurred at a busy time of day in a busy area of the hospital, with many staff and visitors present, but the hospital’s response systems had worked well to prevent a potential escalation of the situation, she said.

The experience had not changed her view of nursing or her workplace.

‘I’m coming up to the end of my career in nursing – I would never have done anything else. It’s one of the most satisfying careers that anyone could have,’ Ms McIntyre said.

I’ve had enormous opportunities through nursing that I wouldn’t have had available to me in any other profession. You always get that wonderful sense of how honoured you are every day to be able to do something to help people.

Dr Wong has since recovered from his attack and has returned to work. A man has been charged with attempted murder and is in custody, awaiting trial .