Staff at Bendigo Health report hundreds of violent incidents

More than 400 incidents of occupational violence against staff at Bendigo Health were reported in the 2015-16 financial year.

The 404 reports of violence were fewer than in many metropolitan hospitals, but the rate of 17 incidents per 100 full-time equivalent staff members was significantly higher, with most Melbourne hospitals recording rates of less than 10 incidents per 100 FTE staff members.

The figures are contained in the hospital’s annual report, which also states occupational violence related incidents were “the most significant cause of musculoskeletal related injuries identified by staff”.

However the number of occupational violence incidents recorded in Bendigo were less than half those recorded at Ballarat Health, where there were 851 incidents at a rate of 30 per 100 FTE staff members.

The report also states a safe work plan established for the Alexander Bayne psychiatric centre helped reduce the number of WorkCover claims for occupational violence in that facility from four in 2014-15 to one in 2015-16.

There were 0.13 WorkCover claims as a result of occupational violence per 100 FTE staff members across the hospital, with 4.2 per cent of incidents resulting in “staff illness, injury or condition”.

A spokeswoman for Bendigo Health said as a health service with a large emergency department, adult psychiatry unit and psychogeriatric unit, the hospital traditionally had a higher level of staff exposure to occupational violence than less complex health services.

“We take the safety of our staff very seriously and have implemented a number of new initiatives that focus not only on occupational violence and aggression, but also staff health and wellbeing,” she said.

“Among those initiatives is to encourage our staff to report all occasions of occupational violence and by doing this, we can not only identify the incidents as they occur, but also review these incidents and make changes to minimise risk to staff and patients.

“Workplace safety remains one of our highest priorities and Bendigo Health will continue to work closely with our staff to ensure we provide the safest workplace possible.”

Elsewhere in central Victoria the figures were much lower, but there were 207 occupational violence incidents reported at Echuca Regional Health in 2015-16, despite the town having a population just over one tenth that of Bendigo.

Rochester and Elmore District Health Service’s figure of 53 violent incidents came despite the hospital servicing a population of just over 8500.

Although nearly one fifth of those incidents resulted in a “staff injury, illness or condition”, there were no WorkCover claims with an occupational violence cause accepted at REDHS in 2015-16.

The REDHS annual report states WorkSafe carried out two visits in June focusing on manual handling and occupational violence prevention and management.

“Policies, procedures, systems and equipment were reviewed to ensure that these high risk situations are managed appropriately and this was found to be the case,” it reads.

“[Department of Health and Human Services] occupational violence funding resulted in the installation of safety glass around the acute ward reception area for improved staff safety. The remainder of the grant will be used to improve CCTV and improve amenities for clients.”

The figures were publicly reported for the first time in line with the Victorian Government’s Health Priorities Framework 2012-2022.