Nurses are one of the most at risk groups of violence at work, alongside prison and police officers, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology statistics.
Victorian nurses and midwives are still regularly, and sometimes very seriously, hurt at work by patients, visitors and intruders.
This is unacceptable and what makes it worse is that we have a way to stop the violence.
Over the past three years there has been a lot of talk about making hospitals safe places to work. There have been election promises, a parliamentary inquiry and 39 recommendations that recognised all hospital staff were entitled to a safe and secure workplace and plans to have tougher sentences for those convicted of assaulting nurses.
Talking about violence in hospitals is not enough
Both a Labor and a Coalition Government over the past decade have done the work needed to find out why we have violence in our hospitals and what needs to be done so that health services prevent and manage violence by patients, visitors and intruders.
Now we need a government prepared to make the recommendations a reality in our hospitals.
2010 Coalition state election commitments
The Baillieu, now the Napthine, Government made important election commitments contained in its ‘Coalition Nursing Statement 2010’ including:
• “Insisting that the safety of nurses in and near hospitals is a key focus - nurses should not have fear for their life and security as part of their work.”
• “We will ensure that safety is a key requirement in emergency departments in particular.”
• “Demanding an evaluation of existing anti violence measures in operation in our hospitals and health care facilities.”
• “Legislating to ensure that physical violence directed at health workers, including nurses, while engaged in their work is met with the full force of the law and sentencing reflects the seriousness of attacking a nurse.”
• “Proper occupational health and safety protections for nurses.”
2011-12 parliamentary inquiry into violence in Victorian hospitals
Following its election, the Government’s Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee Inquiry into Violence and Security Arrangements in Victorian Hospitals and, in particular, Emergency Departments took place during 2011. The committee’s final report in December 2011 made 39 comprehensive and important recommendations including:
• Recommendation 3: within 12 months of the tabling of this Report there should be a fully independent evaluation of the policies, programs and other measures implemented as a result of the recommendations in the Victorian Taskforce on Violence in Nursing: final report.
This has not happened, nor is ANMF aware of any plans for this to happen.
• Recommendation 5: a specific offence of assaulting, obstructing, hindering or delaying a hospital or health worker or a licensed security guard or emergency worker in the execution or performance of their duties be considered in Victoria.
Attorney-General Robert Clark issued a media release on 26 April 2012 “Tougher sentences on the way for attacks on police and emergency workers” There are still no new laws or draft amendments.
• Recommendation 8: hospitals should be encouraged to form security and aggression management committees and teams with representation from executive management, security staff, medical, nursing and allied staff including, where relevant, members of mental health and alcohol and drug teams.
• Recommendation 18: as outlined in the Victorian Taskforce on Violence in Nursing: final report, standardised Code Grey (unarmed threat or aggressive behaviour that threatens injury) and Code Black (armed threat using a weapon or where there is a serious threat) responses be introduced into all Victorian hospitals. The St Vincent’s Hospital security response may serve as an appropriate model.
There are still Victorian hospitals that do not have a Code Grey or Code Black policy.
• Recommendation 23: in-house comprehensive induction and ongoing accredited education and training be provided to medical, nursing, allied health and security staff, especially emergency department staff, on violence and aggression prevention, procedures and practices. Such training should include but not be restricted to early recognition, restraint and de-escalation techniques along with reporting requirements and procedures. It should, wherever possible, be conducted jointly with health and security groups.
This is not happening on a systematic and regular basis in all hospitals.
In its response to the report in June last year the government supported almost half of the recommendations ‘in principle’ only and its half-hearted implementation means the Napthine Government is wasting a precious opportunity to reform our health system and make hospitals safe for staff, patients and visitors.
The Government’s Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee Inquiry into Violence and Security Arrangements in Victorian Hospitals recommended practical, evidenced-based measures that will help hospitals deal with the increasingly challenging, violent and aggressive patient, visitor and intruder behaviours. We need those measures to be a reality in our hospitals.
Every day that the inquiry’s recommendations are allowed to gather dust is another day nurses and midwives are at risk of being hurt at work.
Please sign this petition so the Napthine Government and the Victorian Opposition understand we want our political leaders to take violence seriously and make our health system safe.
More than three years ago your government was elected after making a $21 million promise to make our hospitals safe. This significant commitment indicated this government recognised that nurses and midwives should not fear for their lives while at work.
Your Government started its important work by holding the Parliamentary Inquiry into Violence and Security Arrangements in Victorian Hospitals and, in particular, Emergency Departments.
That inquiry handed down its report and comprehensive 39 recommendations in December 2011.
But since then many nurses and midwives have been assaulted, some very seriously, while trying to care for patients.
Your government’s 2012 response to the inquiry’s recommendations has not reduced the danger for those working in health services because it referred all responsibility for implementing the recommendations to health services without providing enough funding nor any monitoring, oversight or evaluation.
To make hospitals safe we need your government to take a leadership role and implement the blueprint for reform that you already have in those 39 recommendations and specifically:
1.) direct all hospitals to implement basic staff protections recommended by the Victorian Taskforce on Violence in Nursing in 2005, and reiterated by the Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee Inquiry into Violence and Security Arrangements in Victorian Hospitals in December 2011, specifically:
a.) a standardised Code Grey and Code Black response
b.) establish an aggression management reference group to co-ordinate and implement policies and procedures to manage aggressive incidents, primarily through a clinically-led aggression management team
c.) establish, and where necessary fund, in all high-risk departments, adequate security measures that include a response by staff who are trained in the prevention and management of violence and aggression during hours of operation
d.) provide education and training for nurses to prevent and manage occupational violence and bullying at least on an annual basis and provide additional specific training to staff working in identified high risk areas and that compliance be monitored through a database
2.) support and fund the immediate engagement of dedicated security personnel 24-hours a day, seven days a week in all major emergency departments. This must be in addition to security personnel dedicated to the remainder of the hospital and security required for mental health units. Security personnel must be specifically trained to manage and de-escalate situations in the health environment
3.) appoint independent occupational health and safety experts to its Improving Hospital Safety and Security Ministerial Advisory Committee
4.) ensure that there are no adverse consequences for those nurses and midwives who speak out about an incident of workplace violence or aggression, including media interviews.
You have 39 ways to reform the Victorian health system and change the culture of accepting violence, how hospitals respond to violence, how they prevent violence and how they report violence.
We just need you to act so that hospital staff, patients and visitors are safe.