ANMF calls for better security, new procedures, more support from hospitals in efforts to make workplaces safer.
The amount of violence in the workplace is a dire situation that is not improving, the union for nurses and midwives has said.
In the period around the start of the new year, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s Victoria branch (ANMF Vic) received numerous Occupational Violence and Aggression submissions detailing dangerous occurrences.
A patient’s attempt to strangle a nurse and a punch being thrown were among the reported incidents.
Another situation involved a disgruntled former patient who, after sending threatening letters to a rural nursing centre over 12 months, drove to the site with a hostile letter for the director of nursing and proceeded to douse himself in petrol and threaten to set himself ablaze.
Acting secretary of ANMF Vic, Paul Gilbert, said police had previously refused to get involved and were still unwilling to take further action after the man in question was cleared by a psychiatrist and released the same day.
Gilbert called violence in hospitals a nationwide problem. “According to OHS colleagues in other ANMF branches, this is an issue for other states also, but particularly NSW,” he said. “However, there doesn’t appear to be any co-ordinated approach to looking at this.”
Gilbert said recommendations for investigations and inquiries into the issues, such as the most recent Victorian Parliamentary inquiry, hadn’t been fully or appropriately implemented.
“It does not appear that the current Napthine government is willing to take this situation seriously enough to dedicate adequate funding and resources to try to make a real difference and deal with this.
“Their decision to install some CCTV and duress alarms will record what has happened, rather than prevent these terrible things from happening in the first place.”
He said little was being done to address a “widely known and accepted hazard to nurses and midwives”.
The effects of these sorts of occurrences are far reaching. Incidents affect an individual’s ability to function in the workplace, at home and in the community, Gilbert said.
A Victorian nurse who has been involved in a violent workplace incident said the event caused added stress that continues today.
“Certainly for me now there’s a level of heightened awareness of the possibility or the potential for an event escalating out of hand,” the nurse, who wishes to remain nameless, said.
The nurse believes there is a need for more executive support and recognition that there is a problem.
“I suspect if this were to happen in an administrative arena and people were exposed to this on a regular basis, there would be far greater executive support than when it happens in a nursing arena.”
According to ANMF Vic reports, violence is occurring in all areas of nursing, but is most frequently reported in emergency departments and within the mental health system.
Gilbert said this was a result of the stressful nature of these areas and a lack of resources, visible security, consistent and appropriate management strategies and hospital support in reporting to the police, adding that there also are not enough consequences for perpetrators.
He said it was difficult to get exact figures, due to a lack of willingness to report violence because of a reporting system that does not allow it, as identified in the recent Auditor General’s report, and a belief amongst staff that nothing will come of it.
The ANMF Vic believes a system that records incidents and encourages reporting is needed.
Gilbert added that the Department of Health should be collecting and collating data and providing statistics to health services, things it is currently failing to do.
ANMF Vic also said it was essential to have dedicated and specially trained, but unarmed, security in emergency departments and near mental health units, consistent code grey and code black systems across all health services and appropriate and consistent training.Do you have an idea for a story?
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