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92.9fm Regional News

  • Writer's picture92.9fm Newsroom

'War zone': Hospital staff take a stand

Tamworth hospital workers stopped work for one hour on Wednesday after 10 staff members have been attacked in four weeks.

The Health Services Union revealed that "appalling" statistic to 92.9fm News and said their members at Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital stopped working for a meeting between 12pm and 1pm to discuss their rising concerns over safety.

Joshua Howarth, regional divisional manager for the public health union, said in the last four weeks at Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital there has been 10 serious incidences of staff being attacked.

"The most recent one was this morning (Wednesday) where a member of staff was punched in the side of the head and required treatment in the emergency department and subsequently is now being put off work pending further investigation.

"So with the lead up in a series of assaults to this, our sub-branch has put forward to management serious concerns about the inadequate security and the safety of the facility, all of which has fallen on deaf ears."

Mr Howarth said the health district's executives failed to acknowledge that these incidents had occurred.

"Prior to Christmas we had three nurses assaulted, a paramedic in the ambulance bay was hurt, we had a cleaner punched in the face with a fractured jaw bone, we had a security guard who had his thumb ripped back and broken right back to his wrist," he said.

This weekend just gone we've had two security staff assaulted, two nurses assaulted and just this morning we've had one of the members of staff assaulted.

"The executives who are based in Newcastle claimed to have no knowledge of any of those incidences, but yet the union and our members have times, dates, places, who these staff members are and what happened. So there's the disconnect between the hospital executives and the executives running the local health district."

HSU NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said Hunter New England LHD management and Healthshare had been blaming each other for the failure to employ more security staff, while delaying a response until the final recommendations from Peter Anderson's report into hospital security are released.

“The hospital security blame game needs to end,” he added.

“The Hunter New England LHD must allocate funding for more security, and Healthshare must get on with the jobs of ensuring hospital patents and workers are kept safe.

“How many more people must be injured before authorities take action?”

Mr Howarth echoed Mr Hayes' calls, adding that this morning's meeting had been productive and they were hoping for an outcome by Friday.

In response to queries from 92.9fm, Yvonne Patricks, general manager of the Peel sector, said the safety of staff, patients and visitors at Tamworth Hospital is paramount and the hospital has strategies in place to reduce the risk of violence.

"Our hospitals reflect the communities we live in and, as such, we do experience people

coming to our hospitals who have challenging and aggressive behaviours, often caused by various medical conditions that can affect their behaviour," she said.

"On January 5, Tamworth Hospital staff quickly intervened when three employees were

assaulted by a patient, sustaining minor injuries.

"These employees have received medical treatment and support, and are recovering well.

"Hunter New England Health and HealthShare NSW have been in ongoing discussions with the Health Services Union regarding this matter, and will continue to work with them to address their concerns."

The HNEH did not respond to the comment that in four weeks there have been 10 staff members hurt.

Ms Patricks said Tamworth Hospital has the following measures in place to ensure the safest possible environment for staff, patients and visitors:

  1. providing violence prevention management training for security and other staff who

  2. are required to manage and respond to incidents

  3. personal duress alarms for staff

  4. post-incident reviews and de-briefing with staff including access to employee assistance programs.

Ms Patricks said the NSW Government appointed The Hon Peter Anderson to review security in NSW hospitals.

"In February 2019, Mr Anderson released an Interim Report, and action on those

recommendations is underway," she said.

"Mr Anderson has visited every Local Health District and has met with hundreds of frontline staff, including those at Tamworth Hospital.

"Since 2010, there has been a 25 per cent increase in the security workforce across NSW



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