Health workers safe at REDHS despite increasing incidents of occupational violence statewide

By Anna McGuinness

ROCHESTER health workers are in the minority when it comes to workplace violence.

According to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services 15,416 incidents of occupational violence were publicly reported in 2018-19 across all Victorian public health services, an increase of 942 (six per cent) on 2017-18 figures.

A significant proportion of health services outlined a reduction in the proportion of incidents resulting in injury in their 2018-19 annual reports, suggesting there is improved awareness and reporting of occupational violence and aggression.

Rochester and Elmore District Health Service chief executive Karen Laing said such incidents were extremely rare at the hospital.

“REDHS takes the matter of occupational violence and aggression very seriously. The safety of our staff is one of our highest priorities,” Mrs Laing said.

“Staff participate in training to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to recognise early signs of agitation and how best to respond to de-escalate any situation which may potentially lead to aggression or violence. We have systems in place to respond promptly in the event it is required.

“We are acutely aware that people are often frightened and stressed for a variety of reasons when coming into hospital.

“Staff are also trained to assess and manage factors such as drug and/or alcohol use or withdrawal and cognitive impairment, which may influence the behaviour of a patient or resident.”

The State Government’s $40 million Health Service Violence Prevention Fund was established to improve safety and security through capital infrastructure and increasing security personnel.

These projects included installation of alarms, CCTV, security systems, improved lighting and waiting area design, as well as trials of body-worn cameras and stab resistant vests.

“Violence, abuse and aggression against our front-line health workers is unacceptable,” a spokesperson for the department said.

“It’s never okay that they are abused, threatened or assaulted just for doing their job.

“The Victorian Government has boosted hospital security, introduced tougher safety standards and is building behavioural assessment rooms to care for patients who pose a threat to others.

“We have also fostered a culture where more workers are reporting these issues so they can be acted on — rather than swept under the rug.”