The nurses’ union wants security guards employed at Port Lincoln hospital after a doctor and a nurse were attacked by patients within days of each other.

Key points:

  • The nursing union is calling for security guards at the Port Lincoln hospital
  • It says a nurse and a doctor were assaulted in separate incidents last month
  • The victim of an assault in 2019 says she is frustrated

The incidents have prompted the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation to ramp up its campaign for better security at the hospital on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula.

“We’re really, deeply concerned about this situation. It’s absolutely unacceptable,” union secretary Elizabeth Dabars said.

The union claimed a nurse was attacked and bitten by a patient that jumped out of his bed on October 13.

Two days later, it said six police officers were called to the hospital to restrain another patient who punched a doctor in the emergency department and tried to bite other members of staff.

“It is a legal obligation, beholden to the employer, to keep their workforce safe,” Ms Dabars said. 

SA Health recently appointed security guards at the Port Augusta and Whyalla hospitals following concerns raised by staff members.

Elizabeth Dabars says using security guards in other hospitals has reduced violence.(ABC Riverland: Anita Ward)

Ms Dabars said that had led to a de-escalation in violence and an improved sense of personal safety among staff.

She said 24-hour guards were also needed at Port Lincoln.

“Having a security presence on-site does have a deterrent effect, and it also has a real effect in the event that people need help quickly,” she said.

The Eyre and Far North Local Health Network said it had made changes recently to improve staff safety.

“[Changes include] upgrading security cameras across the hospital, implementing portable personal duress alarms in the ED and increased training in responding to challenging behaviour,” a spokeswoman said.

“Over the coming weeks, the nurses station will be upgraded to complete all recommendations that formed part of rolling reviews, the next of which is due in coming weeks.

“Our staff are highly skilled and trained in preventing and responding to challenging behaviour incidents.”

Previous assault victim ‘frustrated’

In August 2019, Port Lincoln nurse Amanda Treagus received head injuries when she was punched by a patient at work.

Amanda Treagus was the victim of an assault at the hospital in 2019.(Supplied)

“All I will say is it is appalling and completely frustrating that we still do not have security,” she said in a statement.

The union said there had been 25 Code Black incidents, or threats of violence, in a three-month period this year.

There were more than 90 Code Black incidents since 2016, and the union said the number of Code Black calls tripled over the past two years.

Posted , updated