Doctors' Association says hospitals need to step up and protect their staff

The AM Show 18/11/2019

The level of violence against front line staff in hospitals is "utterly unacceptable," says the NZ Resident Doctors' Association (NZRDA).

"We need the public to realise that hospitals are places for caring and they are not places for drunk people," NZRDA national secretary Dr Deborah Powell told The AM Show.

Data obtained by Newshub revealed hundreds of cases of violence against staff in hospitals across New Zealand and NZRDA says the problem is escalating.

A large number of those incidents were due to intoxicated people. 

"I think hospitals need to step up - hospitals need to have an absolute no tolerance policy anyone who's not a patient and is drunk should leave," said Powell on Monday.

The hospitals have put the patients and their whanau above staff.

"Staff have the right to a safe environment and at the moment they don't have that," she continued.

She says the level violence faced by medical staff is staggering.

"I've heard reports of staff being stabbed with scissors, so taking a weapon of opportunity. If they're being stitched up, scissors are on the trolley.  [They have been] kicked in the face, broken bones, a jaw broken. One nurse was kicked in the face and it broke her jaw," 

While security guards are trained in de-escalation and restraint they have no real power to stop visitors assaulting staff.

"They do the best they can but they are not the police," said Powell on Monday.

She says a zero tolerance policy needs to be enacted where anyone who is violent towards staff is immediately removed from the building, before the problem gets worse.

According to Powell, nursing staff are leaving the profession due to feeling unsafe, and doctors discuss the fear of coming in to work.

"It's a downer - it takes dedication to keep turning up to [the emergency department] and doing your job."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Vita Molyneux