Queen Elizabeth Hospital nurses rally for safer conditions after a spate of violent attacks

4 November 2019 

Just days after yet another violent attack at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, its nurses are standing up to take action, calling on the State Government to commit to a plan to address the growing reports of violence in their next enterprise agreement.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Elizabeth Dabars AM says rising reports of violence and aggression are affecting staff and patients in health care settings across the State.

“Just last month at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a nurse was punched in the stomach by a patient known to be violent. Two months ago, a nurse was punched in the jaw,” Ms Dabars says, “and these are just the incidents we hear about—there are countless other cases of violence and aggression across the State that go unreported because nurses and midwives say they know very little will be done about it.”

“Many nurses and midwives tell us they feel genuinely unsafe in the pursuit of providing care to the community, and that is quite simply unacceptable.”

“If staff don’t feel safe from violence at public health care facilities, how can the State Government possibly ensure patients and visitors can safely access care?”
In September this year at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a patient known to be Hepatitis C positive spat blood from his mouth at nursing staff. The patient threatened to return to the emergency department to shoot and stab staff. One of the nurses involved in the incident reported having a long and anxious wait for blood test results.
Ms Dabars says the ANMF (SA Branch) has been pushing the (current and former) State Government to effectively address challenging behaviours in health care for more than five years.

More than 12 months ago, the ANMF (SA Branch) handed the Marshall Government a blueprint to address growing levels of violence based on a ten-point model operating in Victoria.

“The principles of Victoria’s Ten-Point Plan to End Violence and Aggression provide a proactive, integrated approach to curbing violence in health care settings and providing effective supports to those impacted.”

“Rather than commit to an integrated plan to address the issue across all public sector health sites, the State Government formed a Steering Committee and, as far as we can tell, has continued a reactive and piecemeal approach to every violent attack after it has occurred.”

“A new car park here and more lighting there doesn’t actually address a serious issue that is endemic across the entire health system.” 

The Ten-Point Plan to End Violence and Aggression in Health Care includes the following overarching principles:

  1. Improve security
  2. Identify risks to staff and others
  3. Include patients and their families in care planning
  4. Report, investigate and act
  5. Prevent violence through workplace design
  6. Educate staff
  7. Integrate legislation, policies and procedures
  8. Provide post-incident support
  9. Apply consistent approach to violence across disciplines
  10. Empower staff to expect a safe workplace.

The TQEH action is part of ongoing industrial activity being undertaken by nurses and midwives at all public health care sites. It follows an “insulting” written response from the State Government last week, confirming their rejection of most staff and patient safety measures proposed by nurses and midwives during months of enterprise bargaining negotiations.

Nursing and midwifery staff at all State public health care sites and services will continue to stand up and take action until the State Government reconsiders its position on critical measures—including a commitment to properly addressing violence—in the enterprise agreement that will impact the quality of health care in South Australia.