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Nurses band together for security

The two nurses who were violently attacked at a western Sydney hospital say they feel "let down", after repeated calls for increased security were ignored.

Up to 50 nurses, doctors and security guards stopped work at Blacktown Hospital on Friday to say "enough was enough", following the two assaults in the past nine months.

Last Tuesday, Edith Castro-Rivera was working in the emergency ward at 4.30am (AEST) when a male patient allegedly punched her in the face and stabbed her with a butter knife in her arm, back and breast.

On October 7 last year, Robyn Humphreys-Grono was brutally assaulted by a psychiatric patient at the hospital's mental health unit.

Nurses are now calling for 24-hour security guards at the emergency department and face-to-face aggression management training for all emergency staff within the next six months.

After the attack, Health Minister Jillian Skinner announced a security guard would be stationed in the emergency department from 10pm until 6am (AEST), beginning last Thursday.

"If it's needed on a more frequent basis then that will be considered as well," Skinner said.

But Humphreys-Grono labelled it a "knee jerk" reaction that didn't go far enough and may not last.

She joined staff outside the hospital waving banners reading "Violence: not in my job description" and shouting "What do we want? Safe workplaces! When do we want it? Now!"

"When this happened to me they employed private security guards for two months and then they took them away again," she told AAP.

"I'm worried that it is just a knee jerk reaction and then it will be cancelled."

"I just feel that the whole system let that poor guy [who attacked her] down and they let me down."
Security officer Alan Barnes said "internal and external" management failed to act on repeated requests for increased security, despite rising incidents of violence and an expanding hospital.

"We have been pushing for extra security for as long as I've been here," Barnes, who has worked at Blacktown Hospital for six years, said.

"The push is for four staff, 24/7," he said.

"And we don't have the correct equipment to perform our duties ... we need handcuffs and batons."

Opposition health spokesman, Dr Andrew McDonald, said the problem was not just at Blacktown Hospital.

"I work as a pediatrician at Campbelltown Hospital, so I regularly talk to staff," he said.

"Violence has been a steadily increasing issue that we do need to address."

Drug and alcohol abuse, particularly amphetamine use, had led to increased violence in emergency departments across NSW hospitals in the past five years, he said.

Castro-Rivera, whose left eye is badly bruised and has numerous stab wounds and a cracked rib, said the attack was a "bad dream".

"We care about our patients but we ask just that somebody will care about us as well."

A spokesperson for Western Sydney Local Health District said all staff concerns were taken "very seriously" and that a review of Blacktown Hospital security had been launched.

"The review will assess the adequacy of security staff levels and the equipment required by security offers," the spokesperson said.

"If shortcomings are found they will be rectified."


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