Nurses to turn away drunk and aggressive hospital patients


Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Professor Elizabeth Dabars said hospital administrators had been told to stop the violent attacks against nurses and doctors or face the unusual industrial action to protect the lives of members.

“They have put this problem in the too-hard basket, but hospital workers have had enough,’’ she said.

Professor Dabars was commenting on new research showing that almost all of the state’s emergency department nurses and doctors had been physically threatened by intoxicated patients.

She said that under the ultimatum, which had been given to the Health Department, patients who were too incapacitated by their illness or injury to cause harm would be treated, but those who were violent and capable of carrying out their threats would be turned away until they behaved.

“We have developed a complete zero-tolerance proposal, which is that if you behave like this you are not welcome at the hospital,’’ she said.

“If you cannot treat people with basic courtesy and respect, then you will not be in the emergency department or in the health system.

“You will not be entitled to any service and they would not get any treatment unless they are incapacitated and it is a life-or-death scenario. In that situation, they would not be making threats or able to carry them out.

“But if you present with a laceration for treatment and you are going to attack people in the hospital then you would be escorted off the premises.

“The fact that workers are enduring these horrific conditions is a disgrace. We have been talking to the government and hospitals about this for a long time.’’

NURSES say they will turn away violent drunk and drug-affected patients in an unprecedented attempt to curb attacks on hospital emergency department staff.

The call for action comes as healthcare workers also demand better protection for remote area workers following the killing of Outback nurse Gayle Woodford.

Mrs Woodford was allegedly lured from her home late at night in the ambulance she operated in the remote APY Lands in the state’s far north.

Professor Dabars said in the case of emergency departments, the federation had been lobbying unsuccessfully for drunk or drug-affected patients to be separated in “quiet areas” until they were safe to be treated.

It had also been lobbying for hospital managers to be more  supportive  of charges being laid against violent patients.

Professor Dabars said the plan to refuse treatment for violent patients was the only option if the Health Department continued to oppose segregating them away from the emergency departments.

She said the State Government had promised to follow anti-violence advertisements protecting ambulance officers with others aimed at protecting nurses, but more needed to be done.

“We want a detox location area for all emergency departments, co-located with, but separated from, the area where people are being treated,’’ she said.

A spokesman for SA Health confirmed a public advertising campaign would soon highlight the problem of violence in emergency departments.

“The safety and wellbeing of staff and patients is our priority, and any act of violence or aggression in hospital is inexcusable,’’ the spokesman said.

“We are continuing to work with the ANMF on a range of strategies to tackle violence and aggression in our emergency departments, including developing a campaign similar to the successful Hands off our Ambos campaign, which hashelped reduce violence against paramedics by around 17 per cent.’’

The latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia includes results of a survey of Australian emergency nurses and doctors, including 211 from SA, showing alcohol-related verbal aggression from patients had been experienced in the past 12 months by 97.9 per cent, and physical aggression by 92.2 per cent.

“Managers of health services must ensure a safe working environment for staff,’’ the authors concluded.

“More  importantly,  however, a comprehensive public health approach to changing the prevailing culture that tolerates alcohol-induced unacceptable behaviour is required.’’

Professor Dabars said the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation agreed that more needed to be done by parents and authorities outside hospitals to stop binge drinking and drug abuse, but it was also not satisfied that enough was being done to stop the violence inside hospitals.

Professor Dabars said the State Government had in 2014 tried to curb the violence against emergency nurses by introducing laws that would jail people assaulting a doctor or nurse in a hospital for up to 25 years.

But despite requests for information about how this law was being applied, the federation had not been told of its effectiveness.

“The question we have is if they are using these penalties or not and if the hospitals are being supported to have these people prosecuted,’’ Professor Dabars said.

“Have they put this into place, have hospitals pushed for a prosecution when people are caught, is it having an effect?

“There is no drunks defence any more for assault so there is no excuse for this behaviour.’’

Credit: Story from The Advertiser