Gun brought to Royal Adelaide Hospital as violent incidents increase, union says
Posted July 04, 2019 12:26:03
A patient bringing a loaded gun into the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) and nurses being threatened with knives are just some of the violent incidents plaguing staff at South Australian hospitals, the union for nurses says.
- Staff at Adelaide and regional hospitals have been threatened with knives and guns
- The union says the number of cases and severity of the incidents being reported are rising “exponentially”
- The State Government says it is currently conducting a statewide review of hospital safety
Following a nurse being stabbed in the neck at the Lyell McEwin Hospital last week, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has released a list of incidents that have occurred across the state over the past six months as it pushes for a more coordinated approach to combat violence in hospitals.
According to the union, the gun was brought into the hospital’s emergency department in the bag of a patient injured in a motorbike crash in April.
The list also included someone threatening nurses with a gun during a community care visit in June and staff being threatened with knives at the Northern Community Mental Health Service and Whyalla Hospital on multiple occasions.
Union secretary Elizabeth Dabars said they had been inundated with concerns from nurses who no longer felt safe at their place of work.
“Regrettably we are hearing all too often of just about everyone having a terrible story or a terrifying situation, where either it is a case of a knife or a gun,” Ms Dabars told ABC Radio Adelaide.
“Obviously that’s not as frequent, [but] everyone seems to have a story about being spat on or punched at or kicked at.”
She said patients and visitors to hospitals were also at risk during violent incidents.
Nurses face ‘long, frightening walks’
Staff in Adelaide hospitals have also raised concerns over a lack of parking facilities, or the expense of parking onsite, forcing them to park further away and walk long distances in the dark.
Some staff are parking at the old RAH and walking to work, while others have reported to the union that they are parking at the Entertainment Centre west of Adelaide and walking to the new RAH.
“Until a car park becomes available on site, I have to walk to my car at the Entertainment Centre when I finish my shift at 4:30am,” one nurse told the union.
“The walk is long and frightening, but as public transport doesn’t operate at this time, what choice do I have?”
Another nurse, from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Adelaide’s western suburbs, said they were “so acutely aware of feeling unsafe that we make a point of leaving the hospital in groups wherever possible”.
Following the move to the new RAH, a bus service was offered to staff between the old and new sites, but Ms Dabars said that ceased after a year.
“The issue is one of how do people get to and from work safely and that is an enduring concern that people are grappling with,” Ms Dabars said.
“People perhaps aren’t thinking about the fact that it’s dark, places are poorly lit and other transport services aren’t readily available.”
Ms Dabars said the union had been lobbying SA Health for a “10 point plan” that would boost security and highlight risks to improve workplace safety.
Government moving ‘too slowly’
The Opposition said the State Government was moving too slowly to better protect nurses and doctors in the public hospital system.
Shadow Health Minister Chris Picton said the Minister Stephen Wade should be adopting recommendations from those on the frontline.
“The nurses union’s plan to increase protection for nurses in hospitals needs to be treated very seriously by the Government,” he said.
“Steps should be taken to implement that as much as possible.”
He also called for harsher penalties for those who attacked hospital staff and greater protection for workers.
However, Mr Wade said increased security was not the only answer.
“Security is very likely to be part of the solution, but it needs to be part of a suite of measures,” he said.
Mr Wade said the Government was undertaking a statewide review.