SECURITY for hospital staff in the North West and Gulf region increased with the development of a Safe Ward Program, which was this week endorsed by the State Health Minister.
Through this program the North West Hospital and Health Service (NWHHS) created an isolated area in each facility for staff to shelter in if they needed to escape violence.
From this room the staff could phone the police.
The NWHHS has had the program for several years, according to the health service’s chief executive Lisa Davies Jones.
But on Tuesday Health Minister Cameron Dick praised the recommendations made from the Occupational Violence Oversight Committee which have been enforced since last September. This included the region’s Safe Ward Program.
“There has never been more support for staff and patients on the ground to combat the issue of violence in our hospitals,” Mr Dick said.
“Our dedicated doctors, nurses and paramedics come to work to look after patients, not to become patients themselves.”
In the past year there has been 30 cases of physical abuse and 119 cases of verbal abuse against staff working for the NWHHS.
But the lost time for hospital staff injuries was minimal, Ms Davies Jones said.
The health service covers 300,000 square kilometres and includes communities such as Mount Isa, Julia Creek, Normanton, Doomadgee and Mornington Island.
“Occupational violence in our hospitals is a state wide issue, and the NWHHS is part of a statewide response,” Ms Davies Jones said.
“In our current environment, in remote areas, increased use of security video for Queensland Police Service evidence is becoming more evident.”
She said that the focus on safety was prevention of aggression towards health service staff. Staff learned communication techniques and needed a personal safety plan to cover all situations they could be in.
“In addition to Mount Isa Hospital, the Safe Ward Program has been implemented in all the NWHHS’s regional facilities,” the chief executive said.
“Staff are encouraged to utilise the safe room if they feel in a vulnerable position.”
There had also been increased signage in hospitals warning of ‘zero-tolerance’ of violence towards staff. Last year the number of CCTV cameras increased at facilities in Mornington Island and Doomadgee.
“We also regularly review our external and carpark lighting to ensure we create a safe environment at night,” Ms Davies Jones said.
Mr Dick said further improvements for the safety of hospital staff across Queensland included the formation of a central victim support unit framework to help health workers who were victims of violence.
There would be a revision of security guidelines for the first time in 16 years to reflect current practices in Queensland hospitals, he said.
And Mornington Island’s facility will have more CCTV cameras.