Surge in nurse attacks at Whyalla Hospital: union


More than 20 nurses from a South Australian hospital have been assaulted and left with injuries in one month, according to the nurses’ union.

The surge has sparked calls from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation for additional restraint-trained staff or security at the Whyalla Hospital, located more than 385 km from Adelaide.

The ANMF says at least 22 violent incidents, including nurses being repeatedly punched, bitten and strangled by patients, had been reported to management since January 2.

But SA Health figures suggest only 12 assaults had been reported to the Whyalla Health Service this year.

Whyalla Hospital agreed to deploy additional nurses and restraint-trained staff to the ward of concern, after the ANMF SA raised concerns.

But the move left fewer staff in other wards, which increased the number of violent attacks, as well as from the emergency department where a number of incidents had occurred and were investigated by SafeWork SA.

The ANMF SA said the Flinders and Upper North Local Health Network had no plans to increase restraint-trained staff or employ security to prevent further incidents.

“Whyalla Hospital must immediately implement measures to counter the surge in violence before a staff member or someone in their care is seriously hurt or worse,’’ said CEO Elizabeth Dabars.

“Last year a nurse at Modbury Hospital was almost killed after being knocked unconscious by a patient, and had to be revived with CPR after she stopped breathing.

“We received a commitment from the State Government last May on the early implementation of anti-violence and fatigue policies throughout the health system – and yet violence against nurses continues unabated on an almost daily basis.

“The time to act has long passed. Will it really take a fatality to prompt swift, conclusive action against this frightening scourge?’’

Flinders and Upper North Local Health Network chief executive officer Craig Packard said staff and patient safety was the top priority and intentional violence and aggression within the facility was not tolerated.

“Our staff are highly skilled in preventing and responding to challenging behaviour and caring for complex cohort of patients requiring close observation and care,” he said.

“Staff are trained in the Management of Actual and Potential Aggression (MAPA) and code black training and are supported by additional nurses and trained support staff.

“As part of a security review, recent improvements include a review of the duress alarm system, enclosing some nurses stations and practical code black response training.

“We have also committed to establishing a Challenging Behaviour and Prevention Response Committee to oversee the implementation of the state-wide challenging behaviour toolkit.”



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