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For those unfamiliar with the term Gayle's Law I will give a little background. March 23rd 2016 in the remote indigenous community of Fregon, South Australia, Gayle Woodford, a Remote Area Nurse, was on-call for afterhours emergencies. At around 9:00 PM Gayle and her husband, Keith, went to bed as usual and that was the last time Keith saw his wife alive. Around 11:30 PM Gayle must have been called to their front door, without Keith waking and somehow was lured outside the security cage that surrounds most nurses accommodation by a plea from a man stating that his Grandmother was ill.
That man was Dudley Davey who has since been jailed for life for her murder. He lured her away from the safety of her home with a plea which struck at the core of Gayle's instinct to help the sick. He overpowered Gayle and taking her and the clinic ambulance took off into the bush where he raped then murdered her, burying her in a shallow grave that was discovered 3 days after her disappearance.
This disgusting crime instigated other Remote Nurses and Keith to petition the SA Government to bring in legislation what has come to be known as "Gayle's Law" meaning no nurse should attend any call-out alone and all one nurse clinics should be closed unless extra staff be employed. "Never Alone" was the catch-cry sounded by nurses from all walks of life, from the cities to the outback that enough was enough and this abomination will not happen again.
A TV report aired on the ABC a few nights ago refreshing the memories of Gayle Woodford's heinous murder and the fact was revealed that Safework SA which is responsible for providing work health and safety, public safety and state-based industrial relations services across South Australia has deemed Gayle's death as being not "work related" and as such no workers compensation will be paid to the family.
There are about 1,000 remote area nurses in Australia and our work is challenging. Doctors are usually present only a few days a month and rarely available for afterhours assistance, clinics can be chaotically busy, and RAN's can be called upon for everything from a toothache or a wound needing stitches, to medical evacuation, childbirth or domestic violence-related injuries. The fact that Gayle was expected to be on-call that night and was expected by her employers and the community to use her skills to help anyone in need of medical care that night surely this cannot be classed as "not work related".
This finding has only rubbed salt in the wounds of all RAN's to discover that if something happens to us between our homes and arriving in the clinic afterhours that we will not be covered by workers compensation. There was a huge outcry from nurses of all callings after the program aired via social media but as to whether any of us will be listened to is yet to be discovered.
Watching the program only served to underscore the fine edge that RAN's walk sometimes in these extremely remote settings and only served to refresh the horror that Gayle must have endured that night.
RIP Gayle Woodford- Never Alone.