Nurses face abuse for treating gunman

As Tasmania was still struggling to face the future after the massacre of 35 people at Port Arthur, tensions mounted yesterday at the Hobart hospital where the man accused of the killings is a patient.

Meanwhile, some marketing consultants have ghoulishly suggested that Port Arthur should capitalise on the massacre and incorporate its description into future tours, along with the sites where convicts were kept in chains and flogged.

Five days after the horror at the island state's main tourist attraction, alleged gunman Martin Bryant, 28, remained under police guard in the Royal Hobart Hospital, where he is being treated for severe burns which he suffered at the climax of last Sunday's siege. Nurses at the hospital complained yesterday that people were abusing them in the streets for continuing to treat a man whom Tasmania's half-million people have collectively branded the personification of evil. The hospital itself has received threatening telephone calls.

Helen Gray, secretary of the Tasmanian nurses' union, said: "All nurses share the frustration and abhorrence at what has happened. They also have a duty to tend anyone put under their care. So far, no one has refused treatment to this patient."

The Tasmanian authorities are under strong pressure to move Bryant from the hospital, where some of the 19 people injured in the shootings are being treated for bullet wounds. Now he has been formally charged with one of the killings, preparations are being made to move him to a prison hospital.

John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister, is expected to propose that Australia adopt uniform gun control laws. The New South Wales authorities yesterday agreed to surrenderpowers over firearms to Canberra, and called on other states to do the same, although Tasmania's state government said it would not follow suit.