In the past year doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, health care assistants, attendants and reception staff at Waikato Hospital were punched, kicked, nudged, bitten, abused and spat at while they cared for patients.
Some staff ended up in the emergency department or in a hospital ward.
Others were scared, felt demoralised and angry or had their confidence shattered. Some even felt they had to accept what people dished out to them.
Waikato District Health Board chief executive Craig Climo today launched a new zero tolerance campaign called “It’s your choice of treatment”, based on a similar campaign in the UK.
Banners and posters are now up around Waikato Hospital. Waikato Police and St John both support the campaign.
Mr Climo said he wanted staff to know they did not have to put up with it. “I’m quite clear about that. It is unacceptable that caring Waikato DHB staff can be rewarded with intimidation and violence.”
Police constable Heath Cameron, nurse Lucy Ogle, Waikato DHB security manager Dean Ria, emergency department doctor Giles Chanwai, emergency department nurse manager Jenni Yeates and St John operations team manager Ray Bestwick are the “faces” of the campaign.
Ms Yeates said staff have embraced the campaign. “When we discussed it with them and showed them the posters, there was a lot of emotion. It’s clear to us now that a lot of the violence and intimidation has gone unreported. What this campaign, and the support from within our own organisation and from Police and St John, should do is empower staff to say ‘enough is enough’.”
Ms Yeates said she also hoped the public would support them and provide “peer” pressure by saying the behaviour towards hospital staff was inappropriate.
Waikato Police and St John fully support Waikato DHB’s efforts to stop verbal and physical abuse of hospital staff.
Waikato District Commander Superintendent Win Van Der Velde said that supporting the initiative to reduce the incidences of intimidation and violence towards staff was a natural progression of the growing partnership between Police and the DHB.
“Our doctors and nurses do a vital and fantastic job for our community. There is no doubt that patients and their families are interacting with hospital staff at a stressful time. However a line needs to be drawn around behaviour that will not be tolerated and police will be there to help enforce that line.”
A more formalised relationship between Waikato DHB and Waikato Police has been in effect for two years. It developed from a Police report on security issues at Waikato Hospital. As a result, Waikato DHB appointed a security manager and revamped security services on the campus. Police appointed a liaison officer to offer support and advice to hospital staff on a range of issues and to provide a regular visible Police presence on site.
Constable Heath Cameron currently holds the liaison role and has been involved in the development of the strategy, even appearing in publicity material. Mr Cameron said he was happy to be involved in the process and applauded the DHB for taking a holistic approach.
“It’s not just about calling the police when things have gone pear-shaped. It includes training of staff to manage difficult situations or to identify when it is time to use the implemented security protocols. We are even looking at the design of the work environment to minimise potential incidents in the first place.”
Mr Cameron also echoed the sentiments of his District Commander, saying, “hospital staff do a great job. No one should have to suffer abuse in their workplace; especially from the people they are trying to help.”
St John Regional Operations Manager Grant Pennycook said that while ambulance officers make allowances for patient and bystander emotions, which can run high at an emergency incident, the organisation has a zero tolerance toward assaults on staff.
“We take this issue very seriously, and encourage our staff and volunteers to report assaults to the police and support them in doing so. It is important to emphasise to the public that those who are trying to help the public should be able to get on with their jobs without violence or abuse and we support the DHB with this campaign.”
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