Attacks against nurses on the rise

ASSAULTS against health workers have almost doubled, caused by the double trouble of the Gold Coast's shocking ice epidemic and overcrowded public emergency departments.

Queensland Health and Hospital services records reveal the number of "acts of aggression" toward Coast health workers increased from 258 in 2015-16 to 509 in 2017-18.

Staffer attacks during the last three years on the Glitter Strip have risen by more than 97 per cent, the worst for a regional city and compares to the State average increase of 48 per cent.

QUEENSLAND HEALTH CRISIS: Gold Coast Hospial bed numbers 'simply not enough'

A waiting room at the Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast damaged by a violent patient.
A waiting room at the Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast damaged by a violent patient.

Opposition health spokesperson and registered nurse Ros Bates, who obtained the figures from a Question on Notice to the parliament, predicts the violence is much worse.

"There's still under reporting by staff. What it shows is we need a police beat at the Gold Coast University Hospital," she said.

"I've been calling for this for three years now. Why should our hard working nurses, doctors and security staff think that part of their job description is being assaulted in the workplace."

Photographs obtained by The Bulletin show the ferocity of the violence after a patient recently smashed walls and ripped out cladding from a psychiatric intensive care unit at Robina.

"Thank God no nursing staff were physically injured, but mentally they are again," a hospital source said.

"Mental health isn't mental health any more, it's drug and alcohol users in all the beds. Since November, in one small unit, we've had staff off with a head injury, another to the shoulder and arm, and another was a neck.

"This (the room damage) isn't just one pure incident - I've seen that happen 150 times in my career."

THE FRONTLINE OF THE GOLD COAST'S EMERGENCY OVERLOAD

Bonney MP Sam O’Connor and Mudgeeraba MP Ros Bates discuss a police beat near the Gold Coast University Hospital.
Bonney MP Sam O’Connor and Mudgeeraba MP Ros Bates discuss a police beat near the Gold Coast University Hospital.

Bonney MP Sam O'Connor has been contacted by nurses who describe their workplaces as "the scariest environment" where drug and alcohol patients regularly refer to them as "sluts".

A security source said examination rules had changed enabling police to drop off drunk patients rather than keep watch on them.

"We don't even have the powers to search and need to have a nurse on the scene to do it and can only do it with consent for voluntary patients," the security source said.

"Last night we had a guy come in with a stabbing wound. When the clinicians stabilised the wound, they found a canister of ice up his rectum."

Staffers told Ms Bates that the skyrocketing assaults were due to aggressive drug users on ice presenting at mental health wards and frustration of other patients waiting in the ED.

"There's not enough nurses. Labor's response to this problem has not curbed the violence - it is out of control," the Mudgeeraba MP said.

Ambulances parked at the Gold Coast University Hospital after ramping last night. Picture: Jerad Williams
Ambulances parked at the Gold Coast University Hospital after ramping last night. Picture: Jerad Williams

LNP Leader Deb Frecklington said staff did not deserve to be treated like punching bags.

"Violence in our hospitals has exploded under Annastacia Palaszczuk. These statistics are damning and it's clear something needs to be done to address the staggering violence," she said.

Campaigning by the Bulletin and Ms Bates in the past three years led to an increase in security staff along with safety measures like body-worn cameras.

GOLDOC chairman Peter Beattie in August 2016 had promised a police beat for the Commonwealth Games Athletes Village next to the hospital but only a temporary cop shop was created for the event.

Police Minister Mark Ryan last night said the allocation of police resources was matter for the Police Commissioner, free of political interference.

The QPS had advised there were no current plans to establish a permanent police facility in the Gold Coast University Hospital precinct, he said.

"Currently any calls for service are attended to by Southport Police which is one of the largest 24-hour police stations on the Gold Coast," Mr Ryan said.

Gold Coast Health executive director of people and corporate Hannah Bloch said most occupational violence incidents involved elderly dementia patients, those with other cognitive impairments or mental health issues.

Ambulances at the ED at Gold Coast University Hospital at Parkwood . Picture Mike Batterham.
Ambulances at the ED at Gold Coast University Hospital at Parkwood . Picture Mike Batterham.

Frontline staff had personal duress alarms, received regular training aimed at reducing violent threats, and 24/7 security was stationed in emergency and mental health areas, she said.

"In 2018 we saw a more than 20 per cent rise in the number of occupational violence incidents reported at the Gold Coast University Hospital compared to 2017, and a major contributing factor to this was increased training and the availability of an online reporting tool," Ms Bloch said.

However, as a result of the introduction of new response procedures and increasing numbers of protective security officers, the number of OV incidents which result in a staff member requiring time off work has reduced from 4.15 per cent in 2017-18 to 1.8 per cent in 2018-19.


Private haven with sea views

Private haven with sea views

The Whitsunday Times property of the week

Remembering the fallen: Proserpine Anzac services

Remembering the fallen: Proserpine Anzac services

Proserpine to pay tribute to those who have fought for their country

Aussie waves for South African

premium_icon Aussie waves for South African

Ross is enjoying his time in Australia.