ANMF welcomes security upgrade for Mt Gambier Hospital


24 March 2022

Violence and aggression in health settings remains a huge problem in the South-East, as it does throughout the state.

The ANMF has heard that not a day goes by at Mt Gambier Hospital where there is not one, two or even three Code Black incidents.

Like many other regional hospitals, there is still no onsite security, meaning staff have to call police in the event of an emergency and hope they are available to attend promptly. The police station is about 10 minutes away.

Mt Gambier Hospital does have a security guard in the COVID triage tent out the front during opening hours, but nowhere else. 

ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM told ABC South-East radio the ANMF was looking forward to working with the new State Government about the details behind their $24 million pledge to upgrade Mt Gambier Hospital, which includes:

$8 million to upgrade emergency department security and capacity
$11.4 million to double mental health beds from six to 12
$4.6 million to fit out and operate two dedicated drug and alcohol detox beds.

“Before the election, was announced, we had very, very long discussions with all political parties, and that includes Labor, on the issue of violence and aggression and how it is completely unacceptable,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“And we did provide a number of examples, including at Mount Gambier Hospital where, just last year, a Mt Gambier man was actually jailed for assaulting two nurses at the hospital. A female nurse was grabbed and pushed and a male nurse was put in a headlock. 

“And that’s just one example of the violence and aggression that nurses and midwives and care workers are exposed to across this state. 

“We know that all of the parties said that they abhor violence and aggression and they think it’s wrong, but certainly Labor was the one who put their money where their mouth was and made a commitment,’’ Ms Dabars told the ABC. 

“So we are very much looking forward to talking further with the new Government about the detail of these things.

“We have long had a strategy that we have been advocating for. It’s a 10-point plan (to end violence and aggression) which includes making sure that any workplace design goes to prevent violence, that people are educated on how to handle the issue, that the issues are, in fact, taken seriously by management and executives. The plan also includes improving security.

“What we would like to see is strategies and arrangements that in themselves eliminate violence and aggression. I think the reality is however we haven’t seen those types of strategies actually in operation and effective in a meaningful way, and so it does fall down to the presence of security guards to help deter violence and aggression and at least in the event of aggression allow for a very much faster response time.

“It’s not just the hospital staff who are endangered or intimidated by these (aggressive) patients or visitors, it’s the other patients and visitors also.’’

Speaking to the media in the South-East yesterday, Premier Peter Malinauskas said: “I’m very conscious of the fact there are security issues at hospitals throughout regional South Australia. I’ve committed to a specific review of security down at the Port Lincoln Hospital (the ANMF is campaigning for the hospital to instate restraint-trained security guards) and we made the commitment before the election.

“Certainly, security should be continuously reviewed at all our regional hospitals, as well as our metropolitan hospitals, to make sure that we’ve got the balance right,’’ he said.

Ms Dabars said Mt Gambier Hospital has a lot of patients with substance abuse problems and mental health needs “so we think the investment in having more mental health beds and additional drug and alcohol detox beds is a very positive thing but also we have seen examples where the implementation of security guards themselves is very effective.

“For instance, at Whyalla and Port Augusta hospitals, we have heard very, very clearly from our members in those hospitals that the implementation of security guards has provided them with comfort and security. 

“Not withstanding that, we would like other strategies themselves to be effective. But in the absence of that then certainly security guards are important because we think everyone has a right to feel safe, especially in an environment where they are supposed to be either giving care or getting care.’’