The coroner heard that paramedics thought she had “been passed for quite some time”.
On Thursday, the inquest learned that George, who had worked as a nurse for 13 years, was the only nurse to work the night shift at Dame Phyllis Frost Center on both nights Nelson was there.
She was stationed at the medical center and was responsible for taking in new arrivals and those held in the prison’s general population wards.
George told the coroner that she had no contact with Nelson during the first night of the new arrival, but on the way to the bathroom, she peered through her glass window and saw her sleeping.
The video footage played during the inquest showed the following night – the night of Nelson’s death – George was back to work alone as she went to the prisoner’s Yarra Unit cell at around 1:30 am to get her paracetamol and medicines. to give against nausea.
She peered through a trapdoor for less than a minute—with three prison guards nearby—before releasing the prisoner’s cramped fingers to give her the pills.
George said she didn’t ask to open the cell door because she was afraid of the officer on duty, but admitted she should have.
“I should have checked her. I should have asked the officer to open the door,” she said.
“Veronica was so polite and calm. I thought she was okay at that stage.”
Over the next two hours, George was again warned of more of Nelson’s intercom calls to prison officials for help. But security footage showed the nurse not returning to her cell and spending hours watching a movie on a prison computer.
She said she told prison staff to take the 37-year-old back to the medical cells, but Nelson refused.
“You watch a movie for hours, don’t you?” asked counsel assisting the coroner Sharon Lacy.
“Yes,” replied George.
The nurse left the prison at 6:30am without taking medical notes about Nelson’s health, before returning later to do so after learning that the inmate had died. George told the coroner that she forgot to do this earlier.
“I don’t know what happened to me that day,” she said.
When she insisted, the nurse agreed that failing to check Nelson’s electronic medical record was a mistake she could not explain, but insisted she had not been informed of the number of intercom calls Nelson was making to prison guards.
Coroner Simon McGregor is investigating Nelson’s death as part of a five-week inquest after it was revealed she had unsuccessfully filed for bail without legal representation before being held in custody at Dame Phyllis Frost Center on charges of shoplifting.
The inquest had previously heard that Nelson was one of 505 First Nations people who have died in custody since Royal Commission findings on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody were handed over in 1991.
George had previously requested that the court remove her name, but McGregor ruled against.
The investigation continues.
Images and audio in this story have been released to the media with permission from the family. For 24/7 crisis support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, contact 13YARN (13 92 76).
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