Staggering number of nurse assaults at Whyalla Hospital

Staggering number of nurse assaults at Whyalla Hospital

A shocking number of nurse assaults in Whyalla has prompted calls for urgent action from Australia's nursing and midwifery union.

At least 22 assaults against nurses at the Whyalla Hospital have been reported to management since January 2, according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation's SA branch.

In a statement released on Thursday, the union said hospital staff had been repeatedly punched, bitten and strangled by patients, resulting in many injuries.

Since concerns were raised about the violence by the union, management had agreed to deploy extra nurses and restraint-trained staff on the ward of primary concern.

But the union says the measures backfired, resulting in fewer staff in other wards and increased episodes of violence, along with the restraint-trained orderly being removed from the emergency department, where previous violent incidents have been investigated by SafeWork SA.

Branch chief executive officer Ajd Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars said there were still no plans from the Flinders and Upper North Local Health Network, which oversees the Whyalla Hospital, to increase restraint-trained staff or employ security throughout the hospital to prevent more violence.

Ms Dabars called on the hospital to introduce measures to counter the surge in violence before someone loses their life.

"Last year a nurse at Modbury Hospital was almost killed after being knocked unconscious by a patient, and had to be revived after she stopped breathing," she said.

"We received a commitment from the state government last May on the early introduction of anti-violence and fatigue policies throughout the health system - and yet violence against nurses continues unabated almost daily.

"The time to act has long passed. Will it really take a fatality to prompt swift, conclusive action against this frightening scourge?

"No-one deserves to be exposed to violence and aggression at their place of work. The safety of other patients is also of utmost concern."

The Flinders and Upper North Local Health Network (FUNLHN) confirmed that 12 assaults have been reported to the Whyalla Health Service.

FUNLHN CEO Craig Packard said a review of the duress alarm system, enclosing nurses stations and practical code black response training had been undertaken at the Whyalla Hospital.

"We have also committed to establishing a Challenging Behaviour and Prevention Response Committee to oversee the implementation of the state-wide challenging behaviour tool kit," he said.

"The safety of our staff and patients is always our top priority and any acts of intentional violence and aggression within our hospital are not tolerated."

Mr Packard said staff were "highly skilled" in preventing and responding to "challenging behaviour and caring for complex cohort of patients requiring close observation and care".

"Staff are trained in the Management of Actual and Potential Aggression (MAPA) and code black training and are supported by additional nurses and trained support staff."