21 May 2019
Earlier this month, South Australia’s Attorney General Vicki Chapman introduced a bill intended—according to her address to Parliament upon tabling the bill—to provide “assurance to our front-line emergency workers by better protecting the state’s police, emergency services workers, front-line medical officers and other law enforcement officers from assaults.”
“The major purpose of this bill is to create a new offence in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 where a person spits at or throws or otherwise applies blood, saliva, semen, faeces or urine on a prescribed emergency worker in the course of their duties.”
While supportive of the introduction of legislation that penalises anyone attacking emergency workers, the ANMF (SA Branch) is concerned that the Attorney-General’s bill only covers nurses working in emergency departments.
“Nurses and midwives provide care to patients in a variety of health care settings—not just in emergency departments,” says ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Elizabeth Dabars AM.
“We are calling for legislation that not only enforces greater penalties for people harming emergency workers, but that doesn’t limit the definition of ‘emergency workers’ to include only nurses working in emergency departments.”
“The idea that emergency operating theatres, assessment units and diagnostic areas providing care to emergency patients such as imaging services should not be covered by the protections is ludicrous.”
Labor has developed a draft bill that provides for greater penalties than the Bill released by the Government and to that extent is welcome. However, the continuing limitation to coverage of nursing and midwifery workforce is not supported by the ANMF (SA Branch).
“Every day across our hospitals, aged care services, mental health and community care environments, ever more nurses, midwives and care workers are being harmed by violent assaults and attacks.”
The ANMF (SA Branch) will continue to lobby both sides of politics to increase protections for nurses and midwives to prevent the rising increase in violent assaults and behaviours in our health care system.
The ANMF (SA Branch) will be working closely with SA Health to push for the implementation of a ten-point plan of attack to end violence and aggression based on the ANMF (Vic Branch) model making a difference interstate.