Regional hospitals and health services must be appropriately staffed and until they are, the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association fears it will be 'some time' before incidents of violence and aggression are significantly reduced.
The NSWNMA welcomed Monday's release of the state government's review of hospital security but remain concerned it won't be enough unless more clinical staff are employed and a nurse-to-patient ratio is mandated as well.
Key parties were consulted for the review and hospitals and health services across the state, including the Central West, were visited in the process. The report produced 107 recommendations, with additional measures also added.
Extra security is important, but it's not the only solution that is required. We need the government to support our nurses and midwives by implementing safe staffing.NSWNMA Acting General Secretary Judith Kiejda
The latter included boosting security numbers in regional and rural emergency departments and, as a priority, ensuring Local Health Districts employ permanent security staff rather than contractors.
NSWNMA acting general secretary Judith Kiejda labelled security increases and violence prevention measures as 'welcome', but lamented safe and appropriate clinical staffing levels not being made a priority.
"Extra security is important, but it's not the only solution that is required. Security personnel cannot be expected to provide clinical care sought by patients coming through the front door," she said.
"In regional areas our nursing staff are regularly put at risk, this is often compounded by short staffing.
"The government has committed to adopting these additional measures, but they haven't prioritised the need to ensure our hospitals and health facilities are staffed appropriately.
"Unless the government is prepared to acknowledge this, we fear it will be some time before incidents of violence and aggression towards hospital staff is significantly reduced."
The necessity for a patient-to-ratio system, like those in place in Victoria and Queensland, would go a long way to alleviating those clinical staffing issues, in turn helping provide safer environments.
Ms Kiejda went as far as saying NSW needs to 'step up' in that department to allow services the right number and skill mix of nursing staff, as well as proper support to report incidents when they do occur.
"We need the government to support our nurses and midwives by implementing safe staffing, that can be achieved by mandating nurse-to-patient ratios throughout NSW," she said.
NSWNMA organiser Tracey Coyte, who sees the situation first-hand in the Central West, reiterated that point, particularly when considering rural areas that rely on smaller hospitals or Multi-Purpose Facilities.
She said the issue is still present at base hospitals like Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo's - across the board in fact - but expressed particular concern for smaller centres, some of which don't have doctors on site.
HAVE YOUR SAY
- Send us a letter to the editor using the form below