Five attacks on hospital staff still too many

FIVE assaults on doctors and nurses were recorded at the Gladstone Hospital in the past financial year, compared to more than 200 reported at Rockhampton Hospital.

Figures released from the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service showed the five assaults recorded in 2013-14 compared to 16 in the previous year at Gladstone Hospital.

By comparison, at Rockhampton Hospital 227 assaults were recorded in 2013-14.

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But while numbers in Gladstone were low compared to Rockhampton, Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service chief Len Richards said it was still unacceptable that dedicated staff sometimes experienced aggression from patients.

"It is simply abhorrent that health workers are assaulted in the course of their duties, and fortunately most of our patients are grateful for the care they receive," he said.

Mr Richards welcomed the State Government's tougher laws introduced last month.

People who assault paramedics, doctors and nurses will now face 14 years in jail.

"Nurses, doctors and other clinicians are doing their best to help others, and they should not have to put up with violent or abusive behaviour while going about their work," he said.

Queensland emergency department doctor David Rosengren also said the new laws were "excellent" and enforced the message to patients that it was their responsibility not to be aggressive or violent towards medical staff.

He said one of his colleagues had recently been "savagely" punched in the head, without warning.

"Even though we've been doing it for many years, occasionally and unexpectedly we do get nurses and doctors who get belted across the head.

"For us, as an emergency department doctor and nurse, part of your job is being alert to physical violence and assault is a risk," Dr Rosengren said.

"It's part of what we do and is part of the job.

"It doesn't make it right or wrong but over time we've come very accustomed to that in our environment and we try very hard to work around it."

While Dr Rosengren said most doctors and nurses considered tougher penalties for offenders were a good initiative, he was not sure how it would be enforced legally.

In the past he said patients who had been violent used the excuse that they suffered a mental health issue or were alcohol or drug-affected.

He said it was common for them to walk away without much penalty or disincentive.

"There are some anxieties about the practicalities about it," Dr Rosengren said.

"It is excellent the government has put in a strong position on that.

"Time will tell through the legal system on how that is enforced and how it works to reinforce that message to the community that you can't just turn up to a hospital and strike out, or punch, or kick, or slap doctors and nurses who are doing their best to provide care for you."

ASSAULTS:

  • 5 assaults on staff recorded at Gladstone Hospital in 2013-14
  • 227 occurred at Rockhampton Hospital
  • This included doctors, nurses and other staff
  • 16 assaults recorded at Gladstone Hospital in the previous year

- APN NEWSDESK



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