Two violent incidents in South Australian hospitals in recent weeks indicate the need for better protection of nurses and midwives and are further evidence of a worrying trend of increased violence in healthcare.
On June 7, a patient allegedly attempted to strangle a nurse in the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) Emergency Department, while a Medical Officer sustained a shoulder injury when they intervened.
It took Spotless-contracted security staff seven minutes to respond, and they were not confident enough to provide assistance once they did.
The RAH attack followed an incident in the Mount Gambier Hospital carpark on 20 May when a hospital employee was assaulted by an inpatient.
The victim was allegedly verbally abused outside the main front doors of the hospital before being punched in the chin. The perpetrator, a 38-year-old Millicent woman, has since been charged with aggravated assault.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM says the events are consistent with anecdotal evidence that incidents of this nature are on the rise.
“It is concerning that RAH members are reporting the frequency of injury—and a similarly inadequate response—to be a regular occurrence,” Ms Dabars says.
“It’s an incredibly sad state of affairs when you have the people dedicating their lives to caring for others having to worry about their own health and safety while doing so.”
“What is especially disappointing is that the rise in these types of incidents is despite a relatively recent state-wide campaign calling on the public to help put a stop to violence in healthcare.”
The State Government campaign launched in 2017 in response to an alarming 30 per cent increase in code blacks.
“It is completely unacceptable for staff to be working in an environment that we know can become hostile very quickly without adequate safeguards in place.”
In the wake of the RAH attack, ANMF (SA Branch) has written to Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) seeking an independent review into its current policies and procedures.
“Appropriate measures need to be put in place to ensure the safety of nurses and midwives, particularly those at the very frontline of our health care system.”
“The shooting of a security guard and police officer at Sydney’s Nepean Hospital in 2016 should serve as a startling warning as to the potential seriousness of situations which can arise should these concerns continue to go unaddressed.”