Hospital violence funding ‘not sufficient’

By Grace Jones | posted on August 29, 2019

LEADER of the Nationals Mia Davies has described a recent $5 million funding announcement by Health Minister Roger Cook to tackle assaults and violence in metropolitan and regional hospitals as like “spreading Vegemite on toast”.

Ms Davies said the Nationals had been monitoring data and information relating to regional health services and concerns about patient safety had been raised with members of the party.

Statistics show there were 156 instances of Code Black calls in Kalgoorlie Hospital and 46 in Karratha Health Campus.

In comparison, Albany Health Campus responded to five Code Black calls and Katanning Hospital had one in the same period of time.

All other hospitals and health campus’ throughout the Great Southern reported Code Yellow or Code Red occurrences.

A WA Country Health Service (WACHS) spokesperson said a Code Black call was when a staff member felt threatened, was assaulted, received verbal abuse, a patient attempts self-harm, or there was an armed assailant in the hospital.

Ms Davies said she did not have access to information regarding individual instances of assaults, so was not able to accurately explain why some hospitals had fewer assaults than others.

When comparing regional hospital Code Blacks to metropolitan data the Weekender found that in 2018, Royal Perth Hospital reported 51 Code Blacks, Fiona Stanley Hospital reported 52, and Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital reported 515 from July to December that year.

The WACHS spokesperson said in comparison to metropolitan health services, rural and regional hospitals service much smaller populations that were reflected in the number of Code Black occurrences.

“A smaller population also means our staff are well known for their lifesaving work – they provide health services to their friends, family and neighbours,” she said.

“Their connection to the community enables stronger relationships and in turn, helps in minimising Code Black instances.

“It is the firm belief of the WA Country Health Service that all healthcare workers have the right to feel safe and secure as they care for communities in their time of need.”

Minister Cook said one act of aggression towards staff was one act too many and the $5 million would tackle the issue of violence in hospitals.

“This is an initial step to improve security measures and comes alongside a suite of other

measures, these include a partnership with WA police to improve patient handover processes and in-reach services to patients in custody,” he said.

“We know this will help reduce violence and anti-social behaviour in our hospitals and minimise violent and aggressive patients being brought to emergency departments.”

Ms Davies said Minister Cook was not clear on how much of the funding would be allocated to regional hospitals.

“We are concerned the Minister’s response of $5 million is not sufficient and that most of it will be directed to the metropolitan area to deal with the high number of incidents recorded at tertiary hospitals,” she said.

“Until we have more detail we can only presume it’s a bandaid measure that hasn’t been properly thought through.”