Health Services Union calls for changed after latest assault at Tamworth hospital

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A hospital is meant to be a “safe sanctuary for people when they’re sick and injured”, but at times that’s not the case at Tamworth hospital, Health Services Union (HSU) delegate Jeff Knee says. “Over the course of the last month, we’ve had 10 assaults occur, at the hospital, at staff,” Mr Knee said. “It’s unacceptable. We were here six or eight weeks ago for the same reason and still no one wants to tackle the issue.” READ ALSO: The latest incident happened on Sunday, when three hospital workers were assaulted. HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said Sunday’s incident at the Tamworth hospital occurred after police transferred a man, who was being managed on a section 33 mental health order, from the courts. “One security officer was punched in the jaw, another officer was spat on, one nurse was punched in the head and another nurse was grabbed,” Mr Hayes said. In a statement, Hunter New England Health (HNEH) Peel sector general manager Yvonne Patricks said: “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.” Ms Patricks said HNEH and HealthShare NSW have been in discussions with the Health Services Union about the matter, and would continue to work with them to address their concerns. She also made note of NSW Health‘s efforts to address concerns about violent patients. There is a trial at Gosford, Wyong and Blacktown hospitals, with more security officers monitoring the emergency departments and CCTV screens. NSW Health has also worked with NSW Police to improve the protocols for the handover of violent patients. But Mr Knee said something needed to be done now. “Our members are sick of being punched, bitten, kicked and spat upon, and something’s gotta be done about it,” he said. “They’re [HNEH] having meetings and investigations, and while Nero fiddles, Rome burns – just as simple as that. “We want an increase in security staff; we want changes to policy and procedures, which clearly aren’t working, centred in and around the ED. “The design of the ED is unsatisfactory for treating the people that are presented to hospital by police and the courts, and something’s gotta change before someone is killed.” Ms Patricks said the safety of staff, patients and visitors at Tamworth hospital was paramount and the hospital had 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. “Tamworth hospital has the following measures in place to ensure the safest possible environment for our staff, patients and visitors: providing violence prevention management training for security and other staff who are required to manage and respond to incidents, personal duress alarms for staff, post-incident reviews and de-briefing with staff including access to employee assistance programs.”

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