Nurses warn more staff needed to prevent ED violence
Nurses warn that emergency department violence is getting so bad they have seen patients waiting for treatment get up and leave because they are too frightened to stay.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association (NSWNMA) stated while the state government's long-awaited release of its final report into hospital security is welcomed, they fear it won't be enough unless additional nurses are employed.
NSWNMA executive councillor and Byron Central Hospital Branch representative, Liz McCall, said many of the measures outlined in the final report were already current policies, but they had not been applied or enforced to better protect staff or patients, and increased clinical staffing should be a part of the solution.
"We need more clinical staff to de-escalate these situations and treat the people who need medical assistance," she said.
"It will cost more in the short term, but in terms of violence towards staff and patients in the ED, the cost of such violence is horrendous."
Ms McCall said the government "is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted" with its approach of hiring more Health and Security Assistants (HSAs) when what was really needed is more clinical staff.
"We need the government to support our nurses and midwives by implementing safe staffing, that can be achieved by mandating nurse-to-patient ratios throughout NSW," she said.
"Yes we need more HSAs, but security personnel cannot be expected to provide the clinical care being sought by patients coming through the front door.
"Victoria and Queensland both have mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in their public health systems, NSW needs to step up."
Ms McCall's comments came after NSWNMA Acting General Secretary, Judith Kiejda, said nursing staff outside urban areas need more support to stay safe.
"In rural and regional areas, our nursing staff are regularly put at risk and this is often compounded by short staffing," Ms Kiejda said.
"We've highlighted before just how normalised acts of verbal and physical violence have become for nurses and midwives going about their work in our public hospitals."
Ms McCall said alcohol-fuelled violence was the main cause of violence in emergency departments.
Patients waiting to see a clinician in Northern Rivers emergency departments often leave before receiving treatment after being exposed to violent patients, many of whom have mental health problems.
The NNSW Local Health District was contacted for comment.