Coast health worker abuse doubles in less than year

HOSPITAL staff on the Fraser Coast have been the victims of a sharp spike in verbal and physical abuse with the amount of cases doubling in less than 12 months.

The Fraser Coast Chronicle can reveal the number of all reported assaults on staff at Hervey Bay and Maryborough Hospitals jumped 126 per cent as of December 7.

Verbal assaults account for the sharpest increase, and is part of the reason why Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service will today launch a joint campaign with Queensland Police Service to reduce all assaults in emergency departments over the Christmas-New Year period.

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At Maryborough Hospital, 81 verbal assaults were recorded this calendar year, an increase of 406 per cent in the space of 12 months. It also equals a 1250% jump in two years.

Hervey Bay Hospital accounted for 33 cases, a 50 percent increase on 2015's figures.

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service Acting Chief Executive Debbie Carroll said no one should expect to be injured or abused at work.

"As a health and hospital service, we take a zero-tolerance approach to assaults on our staff, whether physical or verbal," Ms Carroll said.

"Our employees, particularly those working in our emergency departments and mental health services, often work in challenging circumstances and high-pressure environments - but that doesn't excuse violent or aggressive behaviour.

"We're here to help the community and we expect the community's respect in return."

Physical assaults almost doubled at Maryborough Hospital, up 90 per cent to 55 cases this year, while a 64 per cent increase was recorded at Hervey Bay (46, up from 28).

It is understood one of the contributing factors to the rise in assaults at Maryborough Hospital is due to elderly patients with dementia who sometimes become aggressive or abusive as part of their condition.

The figures can be partly explained by the encouraged reporting of incidents, but even then, some staff don't report instances as some consider it to be "part of the job".

WBHHS actively encourage staff to report any and all incidents to provide accurate feedback on staffing arrangements.

WBHHS will today launch an awareness campaign to reduce assault on staff.

"When members of the public abuse or assault our staff, police may be called and offenders may be charged with assault or other crimes as they would be if they attacked anyone in a public setting," Ms Carroll said.

"Those who become aggressive or verbally abusive with our staff can be charged with public nuisance or other offences.

"It's important to remember that when people abuse our health professionals, administration officers or operational staff, it doesn't just affect our own team - it can upset and unsettle other patients and visitors, which is unacceptable."


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