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Nurses gagged, afraid of management inquiry told

Nurses avoid reporting frequent workplace violence to police, parliamentary inquiry told.

Nurses at Victorian hospitals are gagged from speaking out against violence perpetrated against them at work and fear management, a state parliamentary inquiry has heard.

Dandenong Hospital emergency department nurse Leslie Graham said she suffers either physical or verbal abuse at work about every second day.

Graham told a parliamentary inquiry into security at the state's hospitals that, in addition to verbal aggression, she and her colleagues get bitten, punched and slapped and have objects thrown at them.

"We have people ... pull their IVs out and throw blood-stained cannulas, sharps, any kind of weapon they can get their hands on, chairs, at the nursing staff," she said.

She said despite frequently being subjected to violence she had never reported it to police because she thought it would cause issues with management.

"If I had a serious issue against myself I would report that to the police, but I know that a lot of people are afraid of the management of different hospitals," she said.

"(A nurse who) got strangled never reported it to the police, and we weren't allowed to make any of the public aware of the violence that we ... come up against because then we could end up in court."

Graham said the design of the new $25 million emergency ward at the hospital, which is run by Southern Health, also contributed to violence against staff.

There were instances where staff were backed into corners and unmonitored corridors, she said.

"We have just had a brand-new emergency department that has been designed and built not by anyone who has ever worked in an emergency department," Graham said.

The inquiry, held by state parliament's drugs and crime prevention committee, was ordered by Police Minister Peter Ryan after criticism of the coalition's pre-election promise to station armed guards at emergency wards.

Graham said armed guards would not help the situation at her hospital and there needed to be more unarmed security staff instead of just one guard working between 6pm and 3am.

Royal Children's Hospital emergency department nurse Peter Sloman said although the hospital's new facility was more secure, there were still design problems.

The hospital's director of emergency services Simon Young said he did not support the introduction of armed guards.

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) Victorian branch assistant secretary Paul Gilbert said the $21 million the government had pledged for 120 armed guards could fund an extra 235 full-time nurses in emergency departments.

ANF Victoria occupational health and safety coordinator Kathy Chrisfield said introducing armed guards into emergency departments would simply create another hazard.


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