Money for health worker safety

THE State Government will attempt to combat violence against hospital staff through a series of funding boosts announced at the weekend.

In a bid to improve the safety and security of doctors, nurses and other health staff working in hospitals, state Health Minister David Davis announced the funding for regional hospitals on Sunday.

This comes as the state government prepares legislation for longer jail sentences for people who attack hospital emergency staff or other emergency workers while they are carrying out their duties.

Central Gippsland Health Service, Sale, Latrobe Regional Hospital, Traralgon and the Bairnsdale Regional Health Service will each receive $25,000 to install additional closed circuit television cameras, upgrade the duress alarm systems and implement enhanced training for staff for dealing with conflict and aggression.

Mr Davis said 40 hospitals were sharing in $1 million as part of this latest round of funding to upgrade and improve safety and security systems.

“Nurses, doctors and other health staff should be able to carry out their work without the potential or threat of violence,” he added.

Shortly before the minister’s announcement the Australian Nursing Federation Victorian Branch launched a campaign asking the Napthine Government to fulfil its promise to nurses and midwives to make them safe at work.

The campaign comes in response to a number of serious attacks on nurses in hospitals and the 2011 Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee report.

The report listed 39 recommendations to stop violence in hospitals.

Measures included implementing standardised Code Grey and Code Black responses in all health services, developing and implementing clinically-led aggression management polices and procedures, providing and monitoring education and training annually to prevent and manage violence and bullying, funding additional security personnel 24-hours a day seven days seven days a week, appointing occupational health and safety experts to the Improving Hospital Safety and Security Advisory Committee and ensuring there are no adverse consequences for nurses and midwives who speak out publicly about violence in the workplace.

ANF Victorian branch secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said nurses and midwives were being hit, punched, kicked, bitten, threatened with weapons and objects and were receiving death threats against themselves and their families.

She said regional and metropolitan nurses and midwives more often than not were left to fend for themselves, sometimes in extremely dangerous situations.

“They feel abandoned by those with the power to stop the violence and they feel betrayed when they are reprimanded for responding to the situation by calling for security or calling the police,” she said.

Ms Fitzpatrick said nurses and midwives also felt, when nothing happened in response to the violent outbursts of patients or their families, that politicians didn’t care.

“Nurses and midwives have been promised a $21 million security package and tougher sentences for assaulting an emergency worker and neither has happened,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

“Despite the number of WorkCover claims stabilising over the past few years, violence in our hospitals is increasing.

“The violence we know about is just the tip of the iceberg because managers are discouraging nurses and midwives to report formally incidents and encourage them to take ‘special’ leave, rather than WorkCover leave which avoids a black mark against the hospital,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

“We’ll be making it really easy for nurses and midwives to report what has happened to them to ANF, through an online form, so we can help them earlier in the process to formally report and get the appropriate responses from their hospital such as a WorkCover claim or police charges,” she added.