Head of emergency reveals major issues at Gladstone hospital
THE JOB of protecting our healthcare workers at Gladstone Base Hospital is ultimately the government's, but the head of the emergency department there, Dr Syed Khadri, says lives are at risk because of a lack of security.
Since 2013 there has been only one security guard on duty at any given time, which means nurses and doctors at Gladstone Hospital have to step in when patients or visitors get violent.
That exposure is having an impact on staff retention, Dr Khadri says.
From January to March there were 22 aggressive incidents recorded at Gladstone Hospital, with four acts of physical violence and 18 acts of verbal aggression.
Nurses in the emergency department are frequently spat on, bitten and, on average, verbally abused twice a week.
"Usually we try to verbally de-escalate [the violent offender] but if they're very violent we don't even talk, we just chemically restrain them with drugs," Dr Khadri said.
Before coming to Gladstone Dr Khadri worked at the Princess Alexandria Hospital as a Senior Registrar and said correct procedure to deal with a violent person there required six security staff.
"Normally other hospitals have a code black, which is an internal emergency system where you need six people," Dr Khadri said.
"Over here we declare it but we don't have six security guards, so you have to get available doctors who try to hold the patient down.
"If we don't have that we just wait for the police to come," he said.
Mr Khadri added that the hospital received excellent assistance from police.
Executive Director of Medical Services at Gladstone, Dr Tim Smart, said clinical staff at Gladstone Hospital were trained in aggressive behaviour management.
However, Queensland Nurses Union Secretary Beth Mohle said the current government needed to increase the number of people who can train nurses and doctors in aggressive behaviour management after cuts made by the previous LNP government.
"We're seeing unacceptable levels of violence and it's a real concern people are being treated as punching bags but it's not just about security," Mrs Mohle said. "It's about high workloads, inadequate staffing, getting the right skill mix and facility design to ensure patients and staff are safe."
Dr Khadri says violence at Gladstone Hospital, which is predominately the consequence of alcohol and drug abuse, is making nurses walk off the job.
"The nurses just can't put up with this anymore," he said.
"They study hard and we lose those skills they've acquired over six to seven years. In a place like Gladstone where it is hard to recruit and keep nurses, it's hard to backfill when they're going on stress leave and the department goes into chaos," he said.
While Mr Khadri said no nurses had resigned yet, he was fearful that if the violence continued they would.
Minister for Health Cameron Dick said while the Queensland Government provides funding to the hospital, the allocation of funds for security was up to Central Queensland Hospital and Health Services.
Mr Dick would not guarantee more funding for extra security guards. But he did say, "in the last budget the funding provided to the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Services was increased by $22 million".
Dr Khadri said using drugs and alcohol had other impacts. "Overcrowding in the emergency department leads to 1400 death per annum. By someone being irresponsible you're killing so many people."