Preventing violence in healthcare 

The figures don’t lie - violence involving hospital patients in South Australia is on the rise, with an average of 36 Code Black incidents a day.

Nurses and health care staff are being punched, kicked, spat at, bitten, strangled, even threatened with bowel movements. In one incident this year a Modbury nurse was almost killed. Knocked unconscious, she had to be revived with CPR, after being found with no pulse, not breathing and turning purple.

“We are proud of the strong and sustained actions taken by our members to help stamp out violence against health care professionals,’’ ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj. Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said.

“Member campaigns and vigorous negotiations by the ANMF (SA Branch) team have helped to bring about changes to legislation and commitments from SA Health that enhance safety in our working environments across all levels.

“We will continue to work with our members to ensure that issues pertaining to violence are urgently and comprehensively addressed.

“Nurses, midwives and personal care workers all deserve to feel safe at work.’’

Share your experiences

Members and supporters are also encouraged to stand up and make a difference to the safety and security of nurses, midwives and personal care workers across the health system by reporting their experiences with violence – as they happen – via our new online reporting tool, to help us shine a spotlight on the near-daily attacks on our health care professionals.

Note: De-identified versions of your experiences may be used in ANMF (SA Branch) communications to raise awareness of the frequency and impact of violence on nurses, midwives and personal care workers.

1. Can non-members report their experience with violence to the ANMF (SA Branch) also?
Absolutely. Any nurse, midwife or personal care worker who has been affected by violence or aggression in the workplace is encouraged to report their experience to us here.

The purpose of this online reporting tool is to help us shine a spotlight on the frequency and extent of attacks on nurses, midwives and personal care workers across all health settings.

2. Can I report a violent incident that occurred prior to today?
Of course you can. We've been advocating for measures to address violence for years, so if you are still affected by an incident that happened to you report it here.

SA Health Challenging Behaviour Strategic Framework

The ANMF has welcomed SA Health’s Challenging Behaviour Strategic Framework for tackling violence. In our recent public sector Enterprise Bargaining Agreement we won a commitment from the State Government for the early implementation of anti-violence measures throughout the health system, a key issue which had led to state-wide campaign action in 2019.

ANMF (SA Branch)’s professional team had reviewed and compared its own 10-Point Plan to End Violence and Aggression against the framework and believes the latter addresses criteria identified in the 10-Point Plan.

We continue to advocate for the framework’s urgent implementation.

“While we welcome SA Health’s commitment to the early implementation of anti-violence policies as part of our recent Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, the reality is health care workers are facing the risk of physical harm every time they go to work,’’ Ms Dabars said.

“We urgently need action now and not more timelines for implementation plans to be enacted.

“Appropriate measures need to be put in place to be able to deal with and prevent the threat of violence.’’

Crime Stoppers partnership

ANMF (SA Branch) has been proactive in its efforts to combat the issue of violence head-on, including launching an initiative with Crime Stoppers and health care sites across the state to create a safer working environment for health care staff.

As the nation’s most trusted information reporting service, Crime Stoppers provides people with the opportunity to anonymously report what they know about unsolved crimes and suspicious activity.

This Crime Stoppers campaign includes the placement of prominent signage around car parks and other high-risk areas which have sadly been the site for a number of serious assaults, including one incident last year which left a nurse with stab injuries to her neck.

If your site is interested in learning more, contact us today by emailing enquiry@anmfsa.org.au

Code Purple

In 2019 hundreds of members donned their purple scrubs and plastered themselves with stickers that conveyed the desperate need for the State Government to act on our 10-point plan to put an end to the violence and aggression confronting health care workers every day.

The rolling action at SA Health worksites across the state attracted widespread media attention, raising community awareness of the issue. The 10-point plan has been successfully acted upon in SA Health’s Challenging Behaviour Strategic Framework.

Gayle’s Law

Following the murder of South Australian remote area nurse Gayle Woodford in March, 2016, the ANMF (SA Branch) campaigned vigorously with Ms Woodford’s family for new legislation to protect nurses working in remote areas.

Ms Woodford was lured from her property in the small Outback community of Fregon by convicted sex offender Dudley Davey, who had claimed that his grandmother needed medical assistance. He was later sentenced to life imprisonment for his shocking crime, with a non-parole period of 32 years.

Following robust campaigning from the ANMF and Ms Woodford’s family, the State Parliament passed Gayle’s Law in November 2019, which legislated that no remote area health professional attend after-hours emergency callouts alone.

The law was originally passed in 2017, before the ANMF intervened to successfully advocate for the removal of a dangerous loophole that could have allowed remote workers to attend callouts alone.

Violence in regional and country sites

Violence isn’t just an issue in big metro locations, it sadly is prevalent in country and regional sites who face the additional challenge of little security support.

The prevalence of security in regional areas is far less than that of their metro counterparts, with some smaller regional hospitals having no security personnel at all. In Code Black situations police are called and it’s a matter of hoping they respond in time rather than the immediate response a Code Black incident would receive at most metropolitan hospital sites.

We wrote to the Minister for Health & Wellbeing and the CEO of Country Health LHN in December 2018. Responses were received from both parties.

The Minister’s response committed SA Health to addressing the ongoing safety and security concerns of nursing & midwifery staff in Regional Country ED and advised that steps were being taken at the LHN level and legislatively to address them. His response made specific reference to the protection Gayle’s Law will provide for health practitioners working in remote areas of South Australia.

This issue has also been raised directly with the Minister for Health & Wellbeing at his regular meetings with the ANMF (SA Branch).

The Country Health South Australia (CHSA) response referred to a number of strategies implemented to combat the effects of challenging behaviour including significant work on restrictive behaviours by the Mental Health Directorate, making challenging behaviour training mandated for all CHSALHN volunteers and staff at induction and every 3 years; and setting up a Challenging Behaviour Working Group with members from across the six regions and the Mental Health Directorate to identify and implement strategies.

We will continue to work with members and regional sites to address the specific challenges they face relating to violence against nurses, midwives and personal care workers.