General News

28 February, 2024

Hospital violence triggers review

A REVIEW into security at Mareeba Hospital has been ordered after reports of ongoing physical and verbal abuse towards staff at the facility.

By Ellie Fink

Hospital violence triggers review - feature photo

Several patients who have attended Mareeba Hospital have spoken out on social media in recent times and one local has spoken out after witnessing the abuse by “intoxicated and aggressive” patients.

Barry Braes attended the hospital’s Emergency Department earlier this month and was outraged by the “tirades of abuse and foul language” being directed at hospital staff. 

“While waiting for doctor clearance at 8.15am, another patient was admitted to the booth next door to me,” he said.

“The tirade of abuse and foul language directed at staff and nurses, I couldn’t believe. 

“Apart from the embarrassment, I actually felt a little frightened, so how did the staff feel?”

Mr Braes said he spoke with a senior registered nurse on shift, who said the hospital was “becoming desperate” for higher levels of protection against assault and abuse. 

At the time Mr Braes witnessed the event, there was no security guard on duty.

The registered nurse also said that calling the police was not necessarily going to provide protection to the staff as they could not get to the hospital quick enough if an incident occurred.

“I asked what about calling the police and they said it was basically a response time factor. In other words, the police just can’t materialise,” he said. 

The constant abuse from patients has caused distress among staff, with Mareeba Hospital nurses regularly approaching the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union (QNMU) to raise concerns regarding security.  

Many are concerned with the lack of security present at the hospital, with only one security guard on shift from 8.30pm to 6.30am.

QNMU assistant secretary Sarah Beaman said they had been working with the Queensland Health Occupational Violence Strategy Unit to put new strategies in place to improve overall security of all hospitals. 

This includes enhancing CCTV technology and communication devices, improve training, further engagement with Queensland Police Service and creating more peer support programs for staff. 

“Violence against hospital and health services staff is a national issue, and one the QNMU takes extremely seriously,” Ms Beaman said. 

“QNMU members in some health facilities, including Mareeba, have raised concerns that they do not have adequate security to keep them safe.

“Nurses and midwives deserve to be safe at work. It is unacceptable that nurses and midwives across the state are so frequently exposed to violence and threats.

“There is a real need for workforce planning and funding to ensure adequate numbers of appropriately trained and skilled staff are available to de-escalate incidents where appropriate.”

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Services has confirmed it will be reviewing security processes at rural hospitals in a bid to improve staff and patient safety. 

Stressing the importance of “there’s no room for abuse”, acting executive director (rural and remote) Linda Bailey said safety was a number one priority. 

“Occupational violence is an issue facing too many health workers across Queensland. Verbal and physical violence in our hospitals is unacceptable and we have zero tolerance for anti-social and violent behaviour,” she said. 

“We recently increased resourcing to deliver more occupational violence prevention training courses. 

“We actively encourage our staff to report incidences of occupational violence to ensure there are responsive measures in place to keep our workplaces safe.

“Our staff also have access to our Employee Assistance Program for additional support, should it be required.

“Due to the increasing numbers of people presenting with behavioural issues to all of our emergency departments at all times of the day, we are reviewing our security processes and resourcing across all our rural facilities, including Mareeba Hospital.

“There's no excuse for anyone to abuse or physically assault a healthcare worker.”


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