A very supportive opinion piece in today’s Daily Telegraph by former detective Tim Priest.
Three things I would like to say before you read it.
- From my own experience working in the ED with aggressive and abusive patients, the police (as a whole) have been nothing but efficient and effective dealing with situations that they have become involved in.
Frustrated? Oh yes, I have seen them get frustrated. They often have to remain in our department for hours with high risk patients waiting for our resources to become available to manage their custodians. But when we need them, they have our six.
- Although it is probably more prevalent, this sort of thing is not just limited to the Emergency Department. The wards cop more than their fair share of violence and assault. With mental health and, believe it or not, paediatrics and maternity being frequent hot spots.
- I so totally agree with Mr Priest: ZERO tolerance for this sort of behavior. Zero. Nil. Nix. Nada. Niet. Zip. Zilch.
Yet at times I have been guilty as anyone of letting this stuff slide under the ‘its our job to absorb this stuff‘ rug. [Later you might like to come back and take a read of this story].
Thank you Mr Priest for your salient words which I will repeat here for my friends:
THERE was a time, not so long ago, when hospitals were considered sacred ground and those who worked there, the doctors and nurses, were treated with the respect they deserved.
But not in 2012. Hospital emergency rooms have become mini-battlegrounds with violent and abusive behaviour directed at hospital staff occurring almost daily.
Those who work in emergency wards are already under immense pressure to satisfy near impossible patient treatment times dictated to them by opportunistic politicians and out of touch bureaucrats.
Now there is the burden of dealing with a growing number of abusive and intimidating patients, many affected by drugs or alcohol, who virtually hold an emergency ward to ransom until they are treated and released.
This “priority” treatment for the loud and aggressive is at the expense of the ordinary person who suffers in silence and just waits their turn.
A recent University of Wollongong survey of 91 emergency nurses at two NSW south coast hospitals gave a shocking insight into the level of abuse directed towards nursing staff. Thirty-nine nurses reported almost daily abuse while 23 nurses reported being assaulted at least once a month. Can you believe this?
I have no doubt these experiences are replicated in each and every emergency room across the country.
Recently, the Royal Adelaide Hospital had to close after a suspicious package was intercepted by police within the hospital.
The heightened state of alarm was a result of another shooting victim connected with motorcycle gang violence being admitted to that hospital.
There are similar problems reported in Queensland and the Northern Territory and just a few days ago, two doctors were assaulted at a northern Sydney hospital.
These incidents should alarm all of us, whether we are in good health or not.
There will come a time in all of our lives when we need the help of these special people and you would expect that the care they give is not with one eye on you and the other on a violent and abusive patient nearby.
A senior nurse told me of an incident at another public hospital emergency ward where a drug-affected patient was going off in full view of staff, sick patients and their relatives.
The language was extreme as was his threats of violence towards anyone who caught his gaze.
Despite the fact two uniformed police officers stood nearby him, he continued to abuse both staff and patients.
According to the nurse, the police did little more than “pretend” to get angry with the offender while reminding this senior nurse that tolerating abuse from patients was part of her “job description”.
Since when did nurses have to cop abuse from people with no manners, no self-discipline and only themselves to blame for their predicament?
That same hospital was also the scene of a harrowing tale of how much our community has declined.
An elderly man brought in his terminally ill wife for the final time and while she was being given medication to ease her pain, yet another “patient” decided to put on a scene and screams abuse at nursing staff and threaten violence towards the security guards summoned to restrain him.
The incident does not end quickly and the elderly couple can do nothing else other than try and block out the screams and the noise coming from a nearby cubicle.
The elderly man lamented to a nurse that both he and his wife were good citizens, had raised their children well, had worked all their lives and never burdened anybody, yet his wife would leave this world to the sounds of someone who was the complete opposite.
The question for all of us is why?
Why do we allow this to happen inside an environment where people are ill, many seriously ill and often they are young children.
Shouldn’t there be at least one place where violence, abuse and anti-social behaviour is not tolerated and action against those that offend is swift and meaningful?
Every emergency department around the country displays “zero tolerance” signs warning that bad behaviour will not be tolerated.
The fact is a hospital has to treat you no matter what and the morons know that. They also know “zero tolerance” is rarely, if ever, practised.
If a hospital ejected a violent and abusive patient without treatment, the likely outcome would be the hospital turned upside down by a stampede of ambulance-chasing lawyers.
The answer is simple.
Emergency department managers must call police to every violent incident and the police must arrest and charge those responsible.
That’s what zero tolerance means. Every crime matters, especially those in our hospitals.