Inquiry report rejects Victorian plan to introduce armed guards in Emergency Departments. By Jennifer Bennett
The Victorian nurses union has welcomed the results of a report into safety in Victorian hospitals and hopes it will pave the way for attacks on staff to be made a specific criminal offence, similar to attacks on police.
The Inquiry into Violence and Security Arrangements in Victorian Hospitals was tabled in the Victorian Parliament on December 8. Among its findings was a recommendation that a government plan to install armed guards in emergency wards be abandoned.
“The overwhelming response to this inquiry has been that under no circumstances should either armed or unarmed Victoria Police protective service officers or any other armed officer be placed in Victorian hospitals or emergency rooms to assist with security," said the report.
Kathy Chrisfield, OHS unit co-ordinator with the Australian Nursing Federation Victorian branch, said the union was pleased with this recommendation, among others.
“We feel that our concerns and the issues we raised in our submission have been heeded in the majority of areas. We do feel that the committee has taken note of the evidence we provided of nurses’ experiences and made their recommendations around them,” she said.
The government’s armed guards proposal and the negative reactions it immediately generated from around the health sector were what prompted the inquiry in the first place. “Whilst they had a number of key areas they were looking at, that was a major concern of ours,” said Chrisfield. “The report has come out strong against that, so that’s very positive.”
She said the union was not suggesting that security was unnecessary in emergency departments, but that the presence of armed guards could simply make already dangerous situations worse.
“We do advocate for security personnel in emergency departments. Appropriately trained and certified guards, we believe are critical to providing secure health facilities. The particular area that concerned us was to have armed guards. We don’t want additional hazards, emergency departments are already a quagmire of emotions and other hazards.”
Preventing aggression and its causes was more important, she said, which was one area where the report disappointed. The ANF’s submission had identified long waiting times in emergency rooms and the ensuing anger and frustration they caused in patients as a key driver of violence in emergency departments, but the report did not have anything to say about it.
“People get frustrated because they have been waiting a long time, they might be seeing people go in before them … it is a stressful situation so the waiting times just exacerbate that frustration and quite easily boil over into violence and aggression,” said Chrisfield.
The report does, however, provide more support for the ANF’s push to have attacks on hospital staff made a specific criminal offence, in the same way that attacks on police officers and paramedics are currently treated under Victorian law. Chrisfield said that many nurses and other emergency department staff were reluctant to report attacks because they saw violence as being “part of the job”.
“By having a specific offence, it raises the prospect of those reports being made and prosecution being pursued,” she said.
The office of the Victorian Health Minister, David Davis, did not respond to a request for comment.
The inquiry’s report can be read in full at: www.parliament.vic.gov.au/images/stories/committees/dcpc/ivsavh/Violence_in_Hospitals_report_web_vsmall.pdfDo you have an idea for a story?
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