Drastic action: Violence against hospital staff out of control

YOU'RE ON CAMERA: Mackay Hospital security staff are now wearing body cameras in a bit to prevent violence against staff.
YOU'RE ON CAMERA: Mackay Hospital security staff are now wearing body cameras in a bit to prevent violence against staff. Tony Martin

THINKING of throwing a punch at a nurse, or dishing out a series of crude sentences at hospital staff?

Then, smile, because you're on camera.

In the past 12 months there have been more reported acts of violence against Mackay health staff than there were days and so, to try and prevent that from happening again, Mackay Hospital and Health Service has rolled out six new body cameras.

Data by the Mackay Hospital and Health Service reveal 261 incidents were reported in the 2015/16 year but fast forward 12 months, that number reached 385.

Since the beginning of this year, there have been 190 formal reports of aggression towards staff, including 88 incidents of verbal aggression and 102 of physical aggression.

Staff have experienced punching, biting, kicking, spitting and head butting in altercations with patients.

*Language Warning*

Security officers have also confiscated weapons including a fishing knife, ice pick, broken crockery, razor blades, needles and even a cane knife.

"Being punched, bitten, slapped kicked and even spat on, is totally unacceptable," Director of Human Resources and Engagement Leigh Goldsmith said .

"Healthcare workers are here to help people and our staff should never have to put up with being assaulted while doing their job."

The nursing staff are the most common target, making up 90% of complaints some months.

Tim Ferrington, a security officer at the Mackay Base Hospital, is one of the first to respond to aggressive behaviour.

On one occasion he was forced to restrain a patient, after they began swinging an oxygen bottle at a nurse.

Security supervisor James Stewart said the new cameras were a good way of recording altercations with patients.

"You've got people coming in here with mental health issues, you have people who are intoxicated by alcohol and all types of drugs and people who are frustrated with the care they have, they are in pain... so it's just a good back up to have," Mr Stewart said.

The cameras are similar to the cameras used by the Queensland Police Service.

Mr Stewart said patients were wary of the cameras when interacting with security.

"I've noticed when the guards have had to sit for a prolonged period of time with a patient, the patient is aware of that audible beep and they tend to check their behaviour a lot more," Mr Stewart said.

Recently, two people faced court within two days for abusing hospital staff

A 38-year-old spat a half-eaten sandwich at a worker while drunk because he was unhappy about his supposed treatment at the hospital.

Meanwhile, a 21-year-old, hurled abuse at hospital workers, threatening them and struggling with security.

Mackay has also introduced a Peer Support Program (PSP) in the Emergency Department, Medical Ward and Proserpine Hospital, who have experienced occupational violence.

Ms Goldsmith said one reason for the rise in numbers was an increase in reporting by staff.

Topics:  assault crime mackay mackay base hospital

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