Under attack

A hospital worker is threatened by a patient’s angry mother.

AN Australian law firm is demanding better protection for WA hospital, aged and disability care workers after research revealed more than one in three feared for their own safety.

Close to half of Australian hospital workers said they felt threatened in the workplace due to aggressive behaviour from patients and their families in the last 12 months, and 46 per cent said they felt more at risk because of the covid-19 pandemic.

Slater and Gordon practice group leader Joel Schneider says it’s time for employers to provide better training and safety measures for frontline health workers.

“In the past I have supported healthcare workers through the legal process, who were either assaulted or injured while caring for patients with mental health conditions or dementia in a disability care or aged care setting,” he said.

“In some instances, their employer had allowed the worker to be in a potentially dangerous situation with aggressive patients, due to a lack of workplace processes and adequate training provided to the carer. 

“In some situations, attacks and violent assaults could have been avoided if a second carer was in the room. 

“A violent attack or assault can affect the individual’s ability to continue working, and the worker can end up with a psychological injury such as PTSD, anxiety and depression or nervous shock, as well as a physical injury.”

Mr Schneider said disability care workers were especially at risk, with many working in people’s homes.

“These workers are not always told or warned about the risks of working with individuals and they are expected to enter their homes to provide support to them,” he said.

 “We know that healthcare and social assistance workers suffer higher rates of injuries than most other industries due to the care they provide, such as showering, lifting and transporting vulnerable people in our communities. So they are already at risk of injury.”

Mr Schneider says the concerning findings of the recent study by Kantar Australia – surveying 500 Australians who worked in hospital, allied health, disability care and aged care settings – is proof we need more training and security measures in place.

“Workplaces need to provide safe systems of work to protect frontline workers from violent incidents,” he says.

“There can be a lack of security available in some healthcare and residential care facilities, and some patients are known to be aggressive or violent. 

“Staff need adequate training on how to safely restrain patients who are continually aggressive or violent. 

“The issue raises questions around whether hospitals should be admitting patients who are violent if they are unable to be safely housed in the facility.”

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