ASSAULTS RISE: More hospital staff are being assaulted on the job and Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service hopes to see the number of reports decrease dramatically.
ASSAULTS RISE: More hospital staff are being assaulted on the job and Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service hopes to see the number of reports decrease dramatically. Contributed

Hospital staff treated as 'punching bags' by patients

WE RELY on them to be there when we are at our most vulnerable, but more of our hospital staff are being treated with abuse rather than a handshake.

Since 2015/16, assaults on hospital workers has increased by 28.8 per cent in Wide Bay hospitals.

Broad data released by Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service revealed about 60 per cent of physical assaults happen in medical wards while just under 20 per cent occur in emergency departments and just under 10 per cent in mental health units.

A Wide Bay Hospital and Health spokeswoman told the Chronicle any force applied to a staff member was considered to be a form of physical violence.

"(This) may include an elderly or confused patient pushing or grabbing the arm of a staff member, as well as more aggressive actions such as striking or punching," she said.

"Often occupational violence incidents can be linked to elderly patients suffering from confusion or dementia."

WBHHS introduced a new model of care to Maryborough Hospital's Ward 3, which involves specialising in caring for the patient cohort, to combat this problem.

In 2015/16, Wide Bay had 153 reported acts of aggression which increased to 197 in 2016/17 and 2017/18.

However, year to date figures for 2018 indicate fewer physical assaults were occurring compared to 2017.

The spokeswoman said an increase in the number of violent incidences could be attributed to a focus on improving workplace violence reporting in the past 18 months.

"Our incident reporting system helps us to identify consistent issues, learn from them, provide improved training to our staff and create a safer working environment," she said.

"Our procedures for managing occupational violence focuses on early identification of potential issues, appropriate control measures such as de-escalation techniques and ongoing monitoring of patients and management strategies."

LNP Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates said nurses, doctors and health staff did not deserve to be treated like punching bags on the job.

"As a nurse, I understand our hospitals shouldn't be like war zones, they are places to treat the sick and injured," she said.

"This is just another example of a public health system in crisis."

Currently, WBHHS is monitoring trials of body-worn cameras in other Queensland hospitals and considering their implementation at Fraser Coast hospitals.

"They've been happening over various periods in other Queensland hospitals, and (we will) thoroughly assess the outcomes and viability of a similar initiative in Wide Bay once reliable evidence is available," they said. "If introduced in Wide Bay, the cameras would be worn by duly trained and authorised security personnel.

Total number of aggression reports FY 15/16, FY 16/17, FY 17/18

Metro North: 1928

Metro South: 1786

Townsville: 1397

Darling Downs: 1390

Gold Coast: 962

Cairns and Hinterland: 830

West Moreton: 755

Sunshine Coast: 718

Wide Bay: 547

Mackay: 472

Central Queensland: 457

Children's Health Queensland: 189

North West: 116

South West: 106

Torres and Cape: 82

Central West: 20

Do you think more needs to be done to protect our hospital staff? Let us know at