Stop the Violence Summit

Wednesday 03 Jul 2019

Representatives of the HSUWA joined more than 110 health staff and industry stakeholders at the emergency Stop the Violence Summit on Friday, 21 June 2019.

The emergency summit was convened in response to rising rates of violence and aggression against frontline health staff in the WA public health system.

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.

“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,” one survey respondent said.

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

“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,” another staff member told the HSUWA survey.

Almost half of those surveyed believe there is more violence than there was three years ago and that they were not clear about their rights and responsibilities in restraining violent patients.

The HSUWA’s immediate focus is on our members, with our primary objective at the summit being to protect and further their interests. The union also have a more general concern for the safety of our members and their families in the context of them being users of health services, and for health consumers generally.

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.

During the summit, the HSUWA called on the State Government to act on a number of areas, including 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

A copy of the HSUWA’s position paper presented to the Health Minister and the Director General is available here.

The HSUWA recognizes that while there is no magic solution to addressing the societal issues that contribute to violence and aggression, the State Government must focus its most immediate efforts into de-escalating and better managing the violence, aggression and criminal behaviour faced by health service staff, patients and members of the community going about their business in health service land.

The Department of Health will compile a report on the summit's findings and present it to the Minister for consideration. The HSUWA will be watching closely for the outcomes of the summit.

“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.

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