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Urgent calls for action after Middlemore Hospital staff member violently attacked

A violent attack on a staff member at Middlemore Hospital last night has left the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) looking for answers from WorkSafe.

Middlemore Hospital (file picture). Source: LDR

By Steve Forbes, Local Democracy Reporter

In a statement, Counties Manukau Health confirmed a staff member was attacked yesterday at 4.45pm. 

They said security was called and police attended the incident and a staff member was treated for their injuries.

It follows this week's release of a report by the Counties Manukau District Health Board which showed violent and aggressive behaviour towards nurses and other health workers remained an ongoing problem.

According to the CM Health performance paper there were 63 incidents in March. The data showed in March there were 16 incidents of physical assault, 11 cases of aggressive or threatening behaviour and 7 incidents of inappropriate behaviour.

There were also two cases of patients found with unauthorised weapons, including one with a homemade wooden shank.

But it said the figures didn't include Emergency Department Code Orange events, which is when medical staff have to call for security, or other assistance.

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Sela Ikavuka of the NZ Nurses Organisation says staff just want to be able to go to and from work safely. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) professional nursing advisor Suzanne Rolls said nurses and healthcare workers have to deal with violent and aggressive behaviour on a daily basis.

"This is endemic in our workplaces," she said. 

"That's why we're calling on WorkSafe to do better."

Ms Rolls said the NZNO has been in talks with WorkSafe for the last two years, but it hasn't seen any meaningful change.

"WorkSafe has formulated some guidelines for the DHBs, but we think they need to go beyond that and carry out inspections in cases where there has been harm or injury," Ms Rolls said. 

"We've said to WorkSafe that they don't go far enough. They are voluntary and they aren't mandatory standards.

"We've got a regulator that is not taking the issue of workplace violence in healthcare seriously enough and nurses are being injured."

According to WorkSafe's website it should be notified if a serious injury, illness or incident has happened to a person, or people, carrying out their work, or as a result of work that a business or organisation is responsible for.

A spokesperson for WorkSafe said it hadn't been notified of the incident at Middlemore Hospital yesterday.

"It is important to note that violent crimes are investigated by police, as the most appropriate agency to intervene.

"The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires that a business ensures, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all its workers."

But they didn't respond to questions about the NZNO's call for WorkSafe to investigate violent incidents against healthcare workers.

A spokesperson for Counties Manukau Health (CM Health) said it is already making changes to try and address the ongoing violence and aggressive behaviour towards its staff, including comparing data on such incidents across the whole organisation.

"This programme of work was completed in March 2020 and plans are underway to make the changes to our staff incident reporting system to align the various reporting tools that are currently in use.

"There are a number of reviews and workstreams underway looking at all aspects of violent and aggressive behaviour, improved emergency response solutions and security at DHB sites."

They said it also has a range of training plans available for staff, including a violence intervention programme for staff in high risk areas, such as emergency care and mental health.