MORE than 600 nurses and frontline health staff reported incidents of physical assault in the past year, which has led shadow health minister Vicki Dunne to accuse the ACT government of not having a plan to keep them safe.
Mrs Dunne obtained the statistics from the ACT government in a response to a question taken on notice and is now questioning why there is no plan in place to keep nurses and frontline staff safe.
“Physical assault is a crime,” Mrs Dunne says. “Many nurses and health staff are victims of crime, but the Labor-Greens government isn’t doing anything to keep them safe.”
In a statement Mrs Dunne says only the Canberra Liberals have plan to provide greater protections for frontline staff who are assaulted on the job but doesn’t say what that plan is.
In a response to Mrs Dunne’s claims, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says the Canberra Liberals have failed to do their homework.
“The Canberra Liberals’ comments today disrespect the staff, unions and workplace safety experts who’ve been working to address the very serious issue of occupational violence in health settings,” Ms Stephen-Smith says.
“Simply treating this as an issue of crime and criminality will do nothing to prevent escalation by vulnerable patients, which is a primary cause of violent incidents in Canberra Hospital, or to help health staff respond to risks and incidents appropriately.”
Ms Stephen-Smith says the ACT government is committed to ensuring a safe environment for Canberra Health Services staff, including nurses and other front line health workers.
“Addressing occupational violence in health settings is a challenge for the ACT, just as it is in other jurisdictions. The first step is ensuring that staff feel supported in reporting violence in the workplace. We strongly encourage reporting to ensure that every instance can be addressed appropriately,” she says.
“Canberra Health Services has updated its incident classification procedures to provide detailed data that has helped to inform occupational violence prevention strategies.
“Over the past year, the CEO of Canberra Health Services has led the Occupational Violence Strategy Working Group made up of more than 80 managers and staff, Worksafe ACT, consumer and union representatives.
“The working group has developed an occupational violence strategy and associated tools based on international best practice, and this will be released soon.”