Surge in assaults against Whyalla nurses

4 February 2021

Violence against nurses at Whyalla Hospital has reached alarming proportions with a staggering 22 assaults already this year.

Staff at the hospital have been repeatedly punched, bitten and strangled by patients, resulting in numerous injuries, with at least 22 violent incidents reported to management since January 2.

Following concerns raised by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (SA Branch), Whyalla Hospital management had agreed to deploy additional nurses and restraint-trained staff on the ward of primary concern.

However, this resulted in fewer staff in other wards and increased episodes of violence. It also resulted in the restraint-trained orderly being removed from the emergency department where a multitude of previous incidents have been investigated by SafeWork SA.

As of Monday, there were still no plans from the Flinders and Upper North Local Health Network, which oversees Whyalla Hospital, to increase restraint-trained staff or employ security throughout the hospital to assist with the prevention of further violence.

The ANMF (SA Branch) has contacted SafeWork SA, calling for urgent action.

“Whyalla Hospital must immediately implement measures to counter the surge in violence before a staff member or someone in their care is seriously hurt or worse,’’ said ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM.

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

“We received a commitment from the State Government last May on the early implementation of anti-violence and fatigue policies throughout the health system - and yet violence against nurses continues unabated on an almost daily basis.

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

“Nobody deserves to be exposed to violence and aggression at their place of work. The safety of other patients is also of utmost concern.

“We encourage all our members to notify their ANMF officer if you experience episodes of violence and aggression that you feel are not being resolved in your workplace.’’