Moves to employ tougher security guards at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital should be expanded to other Queensland hospitals to protect staff against violent patients.
Brisbane injury compensation lawyer Trent Johnson, who has personal experience as a former registered nurse in the public hospital emergency department system, says frontline medical staff deserve the strongest security protection against injury from out of control patients.
The Princess Alexandra Hospital is hiring specialised security guards, after calls for “paramilitary-style” security due to physical and verbal attacks on staff.
Frontline employees at risk
Trent Johnson, a Director with Bennett & Philp Lawyers, says it’s a sad reflection on today’s emergency services that frontline staff such as police, ambulance officers and hospital staff cannot perform their work without risk of injury from physical and verbal assault;
He has a unique insight into the issue as Mr Johnson worked as a registered nurse in Queensland for five years, four of those within the emergency department of a public hospital.
“Too often the public, sadly, has no concept of what hospital staff have to deal with, especially from patients intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol.
“Front line staff provide invaluable service to the community and it is disgraceful they are used as punching bags by the very patients they are trying to treat,” he says.
Hospital staff injured by violent patients can and should pursue claims for damages against the individual(s) responsible for the assaults.
“Claims may also lie against the employer (for example the relevant hospital and health service) for failing to provide a safe working environment, failing to provide adequate staffing, failing to have regard to a prior history of aggressive behaviour of particular patients and so on,” he says.
He sympathises with Nurses Professional Association of Queensland
Assistant Secretary Jack McGuire who has claimed nurses lives had been put at risk from repeated and violent attacks from patients.
Mr McGuire believes a “paramilitary style of security” is now needed to ensure the safety of staff.
Trent says dangerous workplaces also face increasing insurance premiums and the risk of Workplace Health & Safety Queensland prosecutions.
“Unions and the State Government need to actively work together to implement tough measures to prevent workplace assaults and ensure emergency response and hospital staff can carry out their duties safely at all times,” he says.
While the current focus is on Princess Alexandra Hospital the issue of violent patients is sadly spread across all hospitals and health services in the state and needs a state-wide response.
Trent says while some hospitals have implemented measures to address assaults on staff including duress alarms, CCTV and extra training, staff still need the physical backup and deterrent of experienced and effective security guards to control unruly and violent patients.
“Too often medical staff encounter patients at their worst and most violent moments especially when drugs or alcohol are involved. Emergency and hospital staff need and deserve proper protection so they can work in safety” he says.
Individual liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation (personal injury work exempted).