Nurses ‘angry and scared’ after recent attacks at mental health facility in Christchurch

Nurses at the mental health facility at Christchurch’s Hillmorton Hospital are angry and scared after three attacks on staff by patients there this year.

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Staff at Hillmorton Hospital’s mental health facility are in fear, says New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s John Miller. Source: Breakfast

A nurse was stabbed while working at the facility on Sunday - the same week as a nurse suffered burns that will scar her for life after boiling water was thrown on her by a patient.

There was also an incident in May where a nurse was strangled and dragged across the floor.

John Miller from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation told Breakfast money was needed to solve the issue, with just a couple of security staff in the Te Awakura inpatient area where the attacks occurred.

Other than those staff, nurses protected themselves through “good practice” or “being collegial”, Mr Miller said.

“Our members are calling for security staff, there’s arguments either way with security staff but there needs to be some quick fix to keep people safe, and people need to be safe at work,” he told Breakfast.

“The other thing is more staff and where they come from is the difficult situation, they can’t be dragged from other parts of the Canterbury District Health Board because it is a service under stress.”

Mr Miller said the number of assaults was unusually high and nurses were understandably frightened and frustrated.

“I think it is (unusually high), I think Christchurch is being exposed to greater risk and higher acuity and a higher demand for mental health services and I think that is as a result of the earthquakes.”

“They (staff) are angry and they’re scared, and who wouldn’t be? The chances of going to work and getting either physically or verbally abused are pretty high so who would want to work in that situation,” he told Breakfast.

The attacks mean people don’t want to nurse in a specialist mental health - an area where nurses were doing amazing work, Mr Miller said.