In June the Health Minister Roger Cook convened a Stop the Violence Summit in response to rising rates of aggression against frontline health staff. More than 100 healthcare staff, as well as security, unions and other key stakeholders provided vital input into initiatives to address the problem.
In a collaborative and productive summit attendees identified key short, medium and long-term strategies to reduce violent and aggressive behaviour within hospitals.
Following the summit, the Health Director General and the East Metropolitan Health Service (EMHS) Chief Executive began coordinating a system-wide approach to address violence and make WA’s public hospitals safer for staff, patients and visitors.
The Department of Health has allocated $5 million within this year’s budget to immediately fund short-term actions. Initiatives include:
- Increase in security staff numbers and review of procedures at hospital sites, to allow “flex up” capacity to cover peak periods and support Emergency Department (ED). Funding will also be used to improve security training for staff;
- Additional Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) specialist positions at five hospitals; Royal Perth Hospital, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Joondalup Health Campus and Armadale Health Service. AOD specialists are trained to de-escalate and also co-ordinate appropriate discharge plans. When AOD patients remain in ED longer than necessary it can cause frustration that can result in violence; and
- Development of a public awareness campaign that encourages patients and visitors to consider the impact of their actions on others. This campaign will run across radio, digital channels and outdoor media, with complementary messaging also displayed within hospitals.
Preparatory work has also commenced on other important strategies including:
- Partnering with the WA Police Force to improve patient handover processes from police to hospital staff and to improve in-reach services to patients in custody. This is expected to minimise violent and aggressive patients being brought to ED when they could potentially be treated by clinicians in the lock-up;
- Reviewing security equipment requirements such as CCTV;
- Developing a system-wide training package for hospital staff to identify and manage agitated and aggressive patients;
- Enhancing support options for staff following violent incidents; and
- Developing tools and protocols for monitoring patients at high risk of violence and aggression.
As stated by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“One act of aggression towards our hospital staff is one act too many. Our healthcare workers provide life-saving treatment to the sickest and most vulnerable Western Australians, and should be able to do so in a safe environment.
“This new funding is the first step to stamp out this deplorable trend of violence and ensure our staff feel safe. It will provide enhanced security and more specialist clinical staff, there will also be a public awareness campaign because we need the support of the entire community to effect change.
“Strengthening processes with WA Police and providing in-reach medical services at police facilities such as the Perth lock-up, will go a long way to help reduce violence and anti-social behaviour in our hospitals.
“I urge the community to help us to condemn this behaviour; when you attend a public hospital you expect the best care, so treat the staff with the respect they deserve and let them get on with the job of saving lives.”