SAY NO: Queensland Health's campaign against violence towards hospital and healthcare workers.
SAY NO: Queensland Health's campaign against violence towards hospital and healthcare workers. CONTRIBUTED

Hospital boosts security as reported assaults rise

ABUSE of hospital staff is on the rise, despite Queensland Health ramping up its campaign against the assault of workers over the past two years.

New statistics reported acts of aggression towards Wide Bay hospital staff members had increased by 28.8 per cent since 2015-16 and Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates said Labor policies were failing.

"Our hard-working nurses, doctors and health staff don't deserve to be treated like punching bags when they go to work,” she said.

In the financial year just ended, 197 incidents were recorded on Wide Bay health staff, up from 153 two years ago.

Health and Ambulance Services Minister Steven Miles said abusive and violent behaviour was unacceptable and said further safety measures were being introduced.

"We have implemented strong, action-based solutions across Queensland in response to key recommendations,” Dr Miles said.

"These measures include more security officers, body-worn cameras, CCTV cameras, voice-activated duress alarms, peer support programs, better reporting of incidents and de-escalation training for staff.”

The number of total reported assaults in 2016-17 and 2017-18 were the same, however in the latter, actual physical assaults had dropped and been replaced by an increase in the reported threat of physical aggression.

A Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service spokeswoman said it had been actively encouraging staff to report all incidents, both physical and verbal, to take a proactive role in reducing assaults.

"There has been a particular focus on improving workplace violence reporting in the past 18 months, which may be linked to an increase in the number of recorded incidents,” they said. "Our incident reporting system helps us to identify consistent issues, learn from them, provide improved training to our staff and create a safer working environment.”

The spokeswoman said key front-line staff had been educated in de-escalating and managing occupational violence situations with staff receiving further training to minimise their exposure to assaults.

"Our employees often work in challenging circumstances and high-pressure environments, but that doesn't excuse violent or aggressive behaviour,” she said.

"Our procedures for managing occupational violence focuses on early identification of potential issues, appropriate control measures such as de-escalation techniques, and ongoing monitoring of patients.

"When physical or verbal assaults against our staff do occur, employees are required to report the matter and WBHHS provides them with appropriate support - for instance through counselling or supporting them to report criminal matters to the Queensland Police Service.”

The spokeswoman said WBHHS had also enforced a number of other measures to protect staff, such as secure areas and safety screens for clinical and administrative staff, duress alarms, increased CCTV coverage, improved car park security for shift workers and the relocation of security staff to allow them to respond more quickly to incidents.

"While we are not currently using body-worn cameras, we continue to monitor outcomes of trials in other Queensland hospitals and we are considering their implementation in future,” they said.

"Often occupational violence incidents can be linked to elderly patients suffering from confusion or dementia.

"In response to this WBHHS has been introducing new models of care.”



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