Surge in Violence Against Melbourne Hospital Workers Sparks Urgent Calls for Action

Hospital workers have faced an alarming surge in abuse over the past year, with patients resorting to physical assaults, threats, and verbal abuse at a rate exceeding one attack per hour. Some staff never return to work due to the trauma, with concerns that these numbers could further rise without immediate action.

Employees face ongoing threats and incidents of occupational violence, from verbal abuse to physical harm including kicking, biting, being struck with objects, punching, and even spitting.

HWU Secretary Diana Asmar says that security guards are on the frontline, confronting the risks of potential harm as they work to protect both patients and their fellow healthcare workers.

“The importance of hospital security workers cannot be overstated. They’re there to intervene in escalating situations and are putting themselves at risk of harm to ensure a safe environment; where healthcare workers can focus on providing care without the constant fear of violence. But more needs to be done. More support, training and recognition for our security guards is essential in addressing the challenges posed by this alarming increase in occupation violence.”

“No worker is safe from the effects of threats of violence, administration staff are being verbally abused on a daily basis, members are calling us asking for advice on how to cope with the psychological effects.”

“There needs to be more funding put towards training staff so they’re more confident to handle and de-escalate potentially violent situations, on prevention by re-assessing safe work practices to put proper and more effective measures in place that ensures the safety of workers and patients, plus provide proper support to the workers after experiencing traumatic events. The EAP (Employee Assistance Program) is not good enough, it doesn’t end for the worker who will carry the ongoing weight of the experience. They need the full support from employer, including access to resources like counselling and additional paid leave that is not deducted from their personal leave. This way workers can take the time they need to work through the trauma.”

During the last financial year, Victoria’s 14 metropolitan hospital services reported 10,099 incidents of occupational violence, averaging 27 incidents daily. This marks an increase of 506 incidents compared to the previous year.

Melbourne Health, which includes the Royal Melbourne Hospital, recorded the highest number of cases, surpassing 2400 incidents, with 2.5% leading to staff injury or illness. Monash Health and Mercy Hospitals Victoria followed, with over 1000 incidents each. The health department acknowledged the severity of the situation and outlined initiatives such as de-escalation training, hospital security measures, and electronic access control systems.

Despite these efforts, concerns that violence against hospital workers will continue to escalate unless preventive measures are implemented across the healthcare system. The well-being and safety of healthcare workers, who tirelessly strive to aid the community, should remain a top priority.

For more on the story you can read the full article by the Herald Sun: Thousands of Melbourne hospital workers attacked in past year