The Australian Nursing Federation (Victorian Branch) launched a new campaign today calling on the Napthine Government to fulfill its promise to nurses and midwives to spend $21 million to stop the violence in hospitals and make them safe at work.
The campaign is in response to a number of extremely serious attacks on nurses in hospitals and the fact that it is almost 18 months since the Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee handed down a comprehensive report and 39 recommendations to stop the violence in hospitals.
ANF (Victorian Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: "Nurses and midwives are being hit, punched, kicked, bitten, threatened with weapons and objects and are receiving death threats against themselves and their families. If this was happening at Spring Street or any other workplace something would be urgently done about it.
"Regional and metropolitan nurses and midwives more often than not are left to fend for themselves, sometimes in extremely dangerous situations, they feel abandoned by those with the power to stop the violence and they feel betrayed when they are reprimanded for responding to the situation by calling for security or calling the police.
"When nothing happens when a nurse is hit by a relative because his mother's wait in emergency is too long, when a midwife is threatened by the former partner of a mother who has just given birth, when a nurse is chastised for calling the police when a patient with a severe head injury threatens to throw a heavy metal canister at her, when a nurse is grabbed by the throat of a dying patient with a brain tumour - they believe our politicians don't care."
The ANF (Vic Branch) has called on the Napthine Government to implement the basic staff protections recommended by its own Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee Inquiry into Violence and Security Arrangements in Victorian Hospitals in December 2011.
These measures include implementing standardised Code Grey and Code Black responses in all health services, developing and implementing clinically-led aggression management policies and procedures, providing and monitoring education and training at least annually to prevent and manage violence and bullying, funding additional security personnel 24-hours a day seven days a week, appointing occupational health and safety experts to the Improving Hospital Safety and Security Ministerial Advisory Committee and ensuring there are no adverse consequences for nurses and midwives who speak out publicly about violence in the workplace.
ANF (Vic Branch) placed open letters to the Victorian community in today's The Age and Herald Sun newspapers explaining why nurses and midwives felt politicians were not taking the high level of violence against them by patients, relatives, visitors and intruders in hospitals seriously.
The letter also asked for the public to support them by signing a new online change.org petition (www.tiny.cc/39ways) which calls on Premier Denis Napthine to implement the 39 recommendations of the Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee Parliamentary Inquiry into Violence and Security Arrangements in Victorian Hospitals.
The campaign will also include online advertising and social media to encourage nurses and midwives to formally report all incidents of violence and aggression, to seek the advice and support of the ANF and to speak out publicly about the culture of our health system that continues to accept the unacceptable.
"Nurses and midwives have been promised a $21 million security package and tougher sentences for assaulting an emergency worker and neither has happened," Ms Fitzpatrick said.
"Government held the inquiry and then posted its response to the recommendations online six months later without telling stakeholders and deferred all responsibility of implementation to the health services without the $21 million promised package or any evaluation or monitoring," she said.
"Then there's the Victorian Government's Hospital Safety and Security Ministerial Advisory Committee which has not got one occupational health and safety expert," she said.
"You can see why nurses and midwives have lost faith in those with the power to make decisions that will affect their safety at work," Ms Fitzpatrick said.
"Every day we talk about the issues is another day nurses and midwives are in danger of being seriously hurt at work. We cannot wait while politicians and hospital managers rehash the comprehensive work that has already been done.
"Despite the number of WorkCover claims stabilising over the past few years, violence in our hospitals is increasing. The violence we know about is just the tip of the iceberg because managers are to discouraging nurses and midwives to report formally incidents and encourage them to take ‘special' leave, rather than WorkCover leave which avoids a black mark against the hospital," she said.
"We'll be making it really easy for nurses and midwives to report what has happened to them to ANF, through an online form , so we can help them earlier in the process to formally report and get the appropriate responses from their hospital such as a WorkCover claim or police charges," Ms Fitzpatrick said.
"ANF understands that the Department of Health collects statistics on the number of violent and aggressive incidents that are reported but this data is not released publicly and it is not known how or if it is used by the government or hospitals.
"The system is hiding the problem and the problem is nurses and midwives are being hurt while they are at work trying to take care of other people," she said.
"Our Government must stop accepting the unacceptable violence that is happening in our hospitals and start acting on its promises to make hospital staff, patients and visitors safe," Ms Fitzpatrick said.
To support the campaign
online petition to Premier Napthine to stop the violence in Victorian hospitals www.tiny.cc/39ways
Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee Inquiry into Violence and Security Arrangements in Victorian Hospitals www.tiny.cc/safetyblueprint
Victorian Government response to the final report and recommendations www.tiny.cc/notgoodenough
Attorney-General Robert Clark media release 26 April 2012 ‘Tougher sentences on the way for attacks on police and emergency workers' http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/3714-tougher-sentences-on-the-way-for-attacks-on-police-and-emergency-workers.html
ANF (Vic Branch) Media Officer
Ph: 03 9275 9333
Mobile: 0417 523 252