Unions demand deployment of additional security staff at public hospitals

The NSW government has ordered a full review of current security arrangements at more than 220 public hospitals and health services, including those in the Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo local government areas.

The government move came after health staff and unions reported a rise in the number of violent incidents at public hospitals.

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association general secretary, Brett Holmes, said health staff have suffered serious facial and head injuries in assaults. 

“Some lost their careers over these injuries and didn’t return to work,” Mr Holmes said.

“We recently conducted a survey at public hospitals and it showed 47 per cent of the 3100 respondents [health staff] had been involved in an incident of violence in the previous week,” Mr Holmes said. 

“About 80 per cent of respondents said they had experienced violence in the previous six months, another 76 per cent said they experienced verbal or non-physical abuse and 24 per cent of respondents said they had experienced physical abuse,” he said.

Mr Holmes said they will co-operate with authorities.

“We certainly welcome the terms and reference of the inquiry. It opens the security review into forensic mental health services that have seen high incidents of violence against our members,” he said.

“The previous round table concentrated on emergency departments, but we believe there are much wider security issues.”

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NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said former health and police minister Peter Anderson will head the review.

Mr Anderson, a former police officer and former director of the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism at Macquarie University, has been tasked to find gaps in the current system and suggest new ideas to ramp up the security.

"Nearly three million patients go through our emergency departments every year and our hospitals provide some of the best health care in the world," Mr Hazzard said.

“A small number of those patients, along with a similarly small number of visitors present a danger to staff and other patients.”

The fresh review will appraise the 12-point plan on hospital security put in place in 2016.

Mr Anderson is due to submit his report in late-February. 

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The NSW Government said it has invested $19 million to improve security at emergency departments, including upgrading CCTV systems.

NSW Health Services Union secretary, Gerard Hayes, said these incidents are happening with alarming frequency.

“Since the first shooting at Nepean Hospital in 2016, our union has called for 250 extra security officers with specialist health orientation and the power to restrain and detain those who threaten public safety,” Mr Hayes said.

“Employing extra hospital security officers with special constable powers is a good starting point to prevent health workers being treated like punching bags.”

This story Safety review of public hospitals ordered to protect staff from violence first appeared on Western Advocate.