Stop the Violence Summit - follow up meeting

Friday 20 Dec 2019

On 12 December, five Security Officers Workplace Reps met with the Minister for Health, Roger Cook and the Director-General of Health, Dr David Russell Weisz.

Following the Stop the Violence Summit a range of measures, including new equipment and CCTV, as well as an advertising campaign, have been introduced by a number of hospitals.

Members seek further change and improvements particularly increased staffing levels and training. The meeting was requested by the union so that our members could directly brief the Minister and D-G about their concerns for security in health and discuss ideas to improve safety.

Our Reps covered a range of issues including minimum staffing levels and training, especially acute in locked ward settings. They spoke of their direct experience - for example, of a recent incident where a nurse was put in a headlock by a patient and threatened with broken glass. More properly trained staff are needed to help reduce threats to safety.

Training was also raised as an issue for the ever-increasing number of outsourced private contractor security staff in public hospitals. They are often being engaged for ‘sitting’ tasks such as minding particularly violent patients. These arrangements used to be fairly ad hoc but are now routine and a seeming default choice for management. The basic levels of knowledge and training for these outsourced security workers, who are nearly always casuals is not of the standard of directly employed Security Officers. The outcome is a less safe environment for all.

Our Reps also raised concerns about the number of Security Officers employed as casuals across Health. Some Security Officers have been casual for over 10 years working full time and are still not recognised as permanent. The Minister and D-G committed to investigating the incidence and misuse of casual employment.

Discussion also turned to clarifying the powers and authority of Security Officers and on to improved equipment. The Minister and the D-G agreed that the range of issues raised was concerning and that Security Officers needed to be properly consulted and engaged as the Government seeks to invest in improving security in Health.

While the initial focus has been on hospital security, we also raised the issue of violence and risk for members working in other settings, particularly those working in community settings or in isolation.

The D-G proposed facilitating a meeting between the union and Reps, with Chief Executives, the Department and the Minister’s office as a good start for improving consultation so that real progress is made where it counts. This should occur in early 2020.

Our Security Reps were impressive with their composed, articulate and clear discussion of the issues. We extend our respect and thanks for their efforts.

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