HSUWA calls for change ahead of health summit

Friday 21 Jun 2019

Almost 80 per cent of health staff surveyed in a recent Health Services Union WA (HSUWA) review said they had experienced or witnessed a violent incident at work.

Details of these incidents included serious assaults, scratching, biting and spitting as well as threats and intimidation towards staff.

Almost half believed there was more violence now than three years ago and that they were not clear about their rights and responsibilities in restraining violent patients.

Almost 70 per cent believe there is a need to increase the powers of security officers to make hospitals safer and half said they did not feel supported when reporting incidents of workplace violence to management.

The survey of more than 70 health staff across WA was conducted after the HSUWA called for an emergency summit last month to break the cycle of increasing violence in WA hospitals.

HSUWA will attend today’s summit and call on the state government to:

  • Set a minimum standard for the number of security officers across all major hospitals and ensure they have clearly defined powers and authority.
  • Change the law to protect medical staff to be able to make a decision to remove an aggressive patient from hospital if safe to do so.
  • Ensure that all health service staff (regardless of who the employer is) receive better training to deal with aggressive situations and that they are legally recognised as Public Officers.
  • Better funded and more mental health services as a means of preventing mental health patients from having to attend emergency departments.
  • Better funded drug and alcohol rehabilitation services, in order to reduce the numbers presenting at emergency departments.

HSUWA Secretary Dan Hill said the issue of violence was state-wide and had been increasing for far too long.

“The union is concerned with the increasing level of violence towards our members in health services across the State, and this summit is an opportunity to finally make a change towards safer health services.

“These protocols we are calling for will only be successful if services are adequately staffed and staff are properly trained to follow procedures.

“An integrated approach between all health staff and proper legislated protocols will be key in changing the violence culture in WA’s health services,” Mr Hill said.

Survey Facts

  • More than 70 health staff participated in a survey including security, allied health, clerical and admin, technical and scientific and management and supervisory.
  • 78.08 per cent said they had experienced or witnessed a violent incident at work.
  • 48.71 per cent believe there was more violence than three years ago.
  • 48.55 per cent said they were not clear about their rights and responsibilities in restraining patients. 
  • 66.67 per cent said there is a need to increase the powers of security officers.
  • 47.76 per cent said they did not feel supported when reporting incidents of workplace violence to management.

Feedback quotes from staff

“Violence is not taken seriously enough by management whether on the ward or in the allied health department. Managers let down their staff by not treating it seriously and staff are therefore discouraged from reporting it again next time.”

“I personally feel that hospital staff put up with too much abuse on a daily basis. we should not be scared to go to work or expect to be attacked/abused every day.

“Drug induced psychosis is taking over and something needs to be done. There needs to be better facilities than what we've got now.

“So many emergency department beds are being filled for days with sedated, violent patients, leaving other patients who need beds waiting; putting more pressure on staff to discharge prematurely and free up beds.”

“On the Youth Ward and Assessment Ward in mental health, Code Blacks are a regular event.”

“I have hardly any patient contact and yet I have personally experienced being grabbed, verbally abused and touched inappropriately by patients. I see meth/drug induced psychosis violence on a daily basis. It has become 'normal' to work in an unsafe environment, which is ridiculous.”

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