United front protecting health workers across Queensland

Published Monday, 19 September, 2016 at 01:09 PM

Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services
The Honourable Cameron Dick

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick has today announced strong action underway in hospitals across the state to better protect healthcare workers from violence. 

The Minister said a range of measures were being rolled out in hospitals from the Gold Coast to the Torres Strait and as far west as Mt Isa in response to recommendations from the Palaszczuk Government’s Occupational Violence Taskforce.

“In recent months, Queensland hospitals have been charging ahead with implementing initiatives recommended by the Palaszczuk Government’s taskforce to better safeguard their staff from assault and abuse on the job,” Mr Dick said.

These initiatives include:

  • Ground-breaking partnership program with the Queensland Nurses Union to optimise staff engagement and patient safety at Gold Coast HHS
  • Upgrade of CCTV cameras at Princess Alexandra and Logan Hospitals
  • Initiation of body worn cameras across Metro South HHS
  • New Code Black procedures throughout Gold Coast HHS and commencement of a new Code Black Taskforce at Logan Hospital
  • Employing three more security officers in the Caboolture Hospital Emergency Department
  • Staff communication campaign encouraging reporting of all incidents of violence throughout Children’s Health Queensland
  • Various training courses including for safety, awareness and de-escalation at Sunshine Coast HHS (more than 1400 staff trained so far in 2016)
  • The establishment of a taskforce and appointment of a project team at Sunshine Coast HHS
  • Extra after-hours security support at Ipswich Health Plaza
  • Additional CCTV cameras installed at Toowoomba Hospital and Ridley Unit
  • Relocation of security staff closer to Emergency Department at Wide Bay HHS
  • Two extra fire safety and security officers at Rockhampton Hospital
  • Established partnership between Mackay HHS and Queensland Police Service to support HHS response to occupational violence
  • Minimum two staff attending all call-outs in Torres and Cape HHS
  • Safe Ward program implemented in all regional facilities in North West HHS

“But this is far from the end of the health system’s response to occupational violence, with even more measures set to come online in hospitals across Queensland both imminently and into next year,” Mr Dick said.

These measures include:

  • Upgrades to CCTV at Redlands and Queen Elizabeth II hospitals
  • Upgrades to security of after-hours car park at Maryborough Hospital
  • Extra security officers at Gladstone Hospital
  • Improved processes for responding to and investigating documented cases of occupational violence across the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service
  • Implement suitable de-escalation training for staff in Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service
  • Increase CCTV at Mornington Island 

Mr Dick said HHS’s would be guided in their development and implementation of further actions to combat occupational violence by a new overarching committee dedicated to the cause.

“The Occupational Violence Oversight Committee brings together some of the state’s top experts, including seasoned doctors, nurses, paramedics and colleagues from the police service, with the aim of strengthening the whole health system’s response to this issue,” he said.

“Never before have we had such a united front to deal with such a challenge and I know these dedicated professionals are just as passionate and committed as I am to see the end of occupational violence in Queensland hospitals.

“There are no excuses for nurses and doctors in our hospitals to face violence at work, yet sadly, each year more than 3000 healthcare workers are physically assaulted.

“Together, we are committed to turning this statistic around, but this is an ongoing issue which requires the support of the community to shift attitudes about what is acceptable behaviour in our hospitals and what is not.”

Ken Whelan, head of the Committee and Chief Executive of Metro North - Australia’s largest public health service - said hospital staff across Queensland were the victims of senseless violence, which is why this state-wide response is vital.

“After extensive consultation, we know what is needed and we are wasting no time in rolling out the Taskforce’s recommendations,” he said.

“Work will continue as we introduce a range of actions including voice-activated duress alarms and body cameras in more hospitals across the state.

“This technology will act as a deterrent but also be useful for our colleagues in the police service to prosecute offenders.

“We’re looking at how a swipe card access reporting system can be used in Emergency Departments as well as recording and flagging frequently aggressive patients and visitors to better manage these types of people.

“We also want to reduce the number of code black incidents through early invention strategies such as the code grey system already in trial at Townsville Hospital and stronger support mechanisms post-assault like the 24/7 hotline for staff at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

“These measures are so important, not just for healthcare workers but also for patient safety.” 

Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Emergency Department specialist and Chair of the Queensland Clinical Senate Dr David Rosengren said doctors and nurses come to work to treat patients, not to become patients themselves.

“Our focus is on looking after those who need it the most and quite frankly we’re sick and tired of those who distract us from doing this - even more so of those who use us as their personal punching bags,” he said.

“I am pleased to represent my colleagues as their representative on this Committee and look forward to seeing many more initiatives rolled out in all hospitals because we need all the support we can get to tackle violence once and for all.” 

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle said the Committee was committed to ensuring new and improved measures will make a difference to not just nurses but all health workers.

"No one should go to work feeling frightened or fearful of being assaulted. It's simply not good enough and I know a majority of Queenslanders feel the same way," she said.

"The Queensland Nurses’ Union is determined to ensure healthcare workers feel safe at work and we are committed to working together to achieve this."

The Committee will work closely with hospital and health services throughout Queensland to oversee the development and implementation of strategies at each facility in response to the Taskforce’s recommendations. 

Since coming to office, the Palaszczuk Government has also launched a $1.35 million public awareness campaign to tackle violence against Queensland health workers as well as a second taskforce, the Paramedic Safety Taskforce, specifically addressing the issue of violence against ambulance officers.


Media contact:        Anika Hume 0439 253 815