FRONTLINE workers at Central Gippsland Health will be safer at work, with the roll-out of behavioural assessment rooms in emergency departments as part of the state government’s $40 million plan to prevent violence and aggression towards the health workforce.
This forms part of the government’s campaign against occupational violence to reinforce that violence and aggression are not tolerated or accepted as part of the job for health workers and paramedics.
The move has been welcomed by Central Gippsland Health chief executive Frank Evans, who said patients could present to the Emergency Department in a distressed and aggressive manner, with verbal or physical abuse as a result of being affected by drugs and alcohol.
Many were brought in by police and required the presence of hospital security or police while treatment was undertaken.
“Violent behaviours can include trying to hit staff, spitting and even kicking, which could not only harm staff, but could self-harm,” Dr Evans said.
He said behavioural assessment rooms provided a separate space within which a multidisciplinary team could work, as well as providing privacy for patients while situations were assessed and managed.
“These rooms can reduce the risk of injury for the patient and staff, facilitate a more positive patient experience, and reduce distress to other patients and visitors in the emergency department,” Dr Evans explained.
He said the new room at CGH would provide a secure environment.
“It will have no sharp items, sound minimisation, highly visualised by staff, two-door entry and exit,” he said.
“It will be larger than a normal room, offering protection to both the patient and the staff.”
Dr Evans said CGH always placed the safety of employees first, while also acknowledging that patients must be supported too.
“Like all emergency departments, at times our staff are subjected to incidents of violence and aggression from patients,” he said.
“The initiatives from the Victorian Government to this are to be commended, and CGH has been working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to strengthen responses to prevent and manage occupational violence and aggression.
“One of our overarching policies is to provide a safe workplace while preventing and managing occupational violence.”
It is estimated that up to 95 per cent of health care workers have experienced physical attacks or verbal attacks on the job.
The funding will enable public health services to begin work on upgrading existing behaviour assessment rooms, or build new ones.
In June, the government announced funding for an additional five behavioural assessment rooms, as well as providing a boost to security personnel at hospitals with emergency departments.
This coincided with the beginning of the ‘It’s never OK’ campaign designed to reduce occupational violence and aggression towards health workers.
The first two rounds of funding have resulted in more than 60 health services receiving funding for a range of projects such as installing alarms, CCTV, access control doors, lighting and security systems as well as redesigning waiting areas and trialling new equipment such as body-worn cameras for paramedics.
Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the government was doing everything it could to support those who cared for and saved the lives of Victorians.
“Violence or aggression towards our health workers will not be tolerated,” she said.
“Behavioural assessment rooms will help keep our staff safe and send a message to Victorians that violence against health care workers is never okay.”
Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing said every worker had the right to a safe workplace where risks were properly identified and managed.
“We will continue to roll out initiatives to promote the safety and wellbeing of our health workers and paramedics — those who take such great care of our community,” she said.