Ex­tra se­cu­rity for staff

The Press - - Front Page - Tom Kitchin, Oliver Lewis and Cate Broughton

A nurse who suf­fered se­ri­ous burns af­ter a men­tal health pa­tient threw boil­ing wa­ter over her has a mes­sage for health lead­ers – things need to change.

The woman could not be at a meet­ing with Can­ter­bury Dis­trict Health Board (CDHB) chief ex­ec­u­tive David Meates at Hill­mor­ton Hos­pi­tal yes­ter­day, but an im­pact state­ment was read on her be­half.

Hours be­fore the meet­ing – the sec­ond in a week to dis­cuss work­place vi­o­lence – a pa­tient as­saulted a se­cu­rity guard. The guard, who was punched in the face, was taken to hos­pi­tal for treat­ment. He re­port­edly suf­fered a bro­ken nose and jaw.

The in­ci­dent is the lat­est in a string of re­cent at­tacks at the men­tal health fa­cil­ity, in­clud­ing a stab­bing, which have been de­scribed as a tip­ping point for staff. Meates said the as­saults were sick­en­ing.

‘‘The es­ca­la­tion and the na­ture of those has cre­ated a fair de­gree of fear for some of the staff,’’ he said. The CDHB was lis­ten­ing to staff and tak­ing im­me­di­ate ac­tion where pos­si­ble.

From yes­ter­day, an ex­tra two se­cu­rity staff were sta­tioned in the adult in­pa­tient unit, Te Awakura, who could re­spond to emer­gency sit­u­a­tions un­der the di­rec­tion of nurs­ing staff. It brought the to­tal num­ber of se­cu­rity po­si­tions across the hos­pi­tal to five.

Meates said the in­creased num­ber of se­cu­rity staff was an in­terim mea­sure ‘‘while we build up a new al­ter­na­tive work force’’ of spe­cialised health care as­sis­tants trained in con­tem­po­rary men­tal health prac­tice.

The CDHB was work­ing with the New Zealand Nurses Or­gan­i­sa­tion to im­prove safety in Te Awakura. The Pub­lic Ser­vice As­so­ci­a­tion (PSA) was also con­cerned, and called for a mul­tiu­nion in­quiry into as­saults at the hos­pi­tal.

‘‘Morale is pretty low, there’s a lot of dis­tress, there’s quite a lot of anger, there’s frus­tra­tion – peo­ple are wait­ing to see a re­sponse,’’ PSA organiser An­thony Rimell said.

Meates said other mea­sures to im­prove safety in­cluded re­view­ing cri­sis ad­mis­sion pro­ce­dures, two new med­i­ca­tion poli­cies, and de­com­mis­sion­ing the boil­ing wa­ter ma­chines that had pre­vi­ously been ac­ces­si­ble to pa­tients.

‘‘Our men­tal health ser­vice is also cur­rently car­ing for twice the vol­ume of pa­tients than prior to the Can­ter­bury earthquakes with the same num­ber of beds and in in­ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties, and this is also putting pres­sure on our staff.’’

A new com­mu­nity acute in­pa­tient unit with up to eight beds would re­lieve some of the pres­sure, Meates said. The new unit, which will be op­er­ated by an

NGO, is ex­pected to open by March.

A nurse who spoke to The Press af­ter the meet­ing said it had been pos­i­tive and hon­est. Pho­to­graphs of the se­ri­ous burns sus­tained by the nurse who was at­tacked at Hill­mor­ton last week were dis­played in the room.

A state­ment read out on her be­half listed ways to im­prove staff safety. The other nurse, who spoke to The Press on the con­di­tion of anonymity, said the mes­sage told the CDHB: ‘‘they need to step up their game’’.

‘‘Peo­ple are be­ing hurt at work when they shouldn’t be,’’ the nurse said. How­ever, she felt the meet­ings with Meates had been help­ful, and there was a sense from nurses that their con­cerns were be­ing heard.

Vi­o­lence has been an on­go­ing is­sue at the Christchurch men­tal health hos­pi­tal. Newly re­leased ACC fig­ures show men­tal health staff made nearly 200 claims for as­sault-re­lated in­juries in the last three years.

The re­cent spate of se­ri­ous in­ci­dents has re­sulted in re­newed scru­tiny. Fol­low­ing an ur­gent meet­ing with the CDHB on Thurs­day, health and safety reg­u­la­tor WorkSafe said it would send in­ves­ti­ga­tors to Hill­mor­ton be­fore Christ­mas.

Meates said both or­gan­i­sa­tions were com­mit­ted to work­ing to­gether to ad­dress safety is­sues.

‘‘I don’t want to see an­other as­sault,’’ he said. ‘‘One as­sault on any staff mem­ber is one too many.’’

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