Funding to improve security for health workers welcomed in Bendigo

Bendigo Health has welcomed the state government’s announcement that it will invest another $20 million in security for health workers, having experienced an increase in aggressive patients in recent times.

Acting chief nursing and midwifery officer David Rosaia said the number of aggressive adult patients hospital staff encountered had gradually grown over the past six to 12 months.

He said this trend was in line with an increased use of narcotics in the region, particularly ice and cannabis, although alcohol was also a major contributor to aggression.

But there had also been a “significant” increase in adolescent patients acting out aggressively, Mr Rosaia said, which was usually because of substance and alcohol use, behavioural issues or psychiatric issues.

The state government’s investment in its Health Service Violence Prevention Fund now totals $40 million.

The fund provides grants for security and safety measures, and the government says security personnel in hospitals with emergency departments “will also be boosted right across the state”.

Mr Rosaia said that while several new security features had been incorporated in the new hospital and the organisation had developed strategies to manage hostile patients in recent years, there was always scope to improve safety for staff.

The new hospital’s security presence has about doubled from the old hospital, with at least five security guards on at any one time.

One of these guards is stationed in a control room, where they can monitor footage picked up by one of the hospital’s 400 cameras.

Mr Rosaia said if a ‘code grey’ – a warning of an aggressive patient – was triggered, the camera in that area would immediately activate and relay a photo back to the control room.

He said the code grey response plan included a specific team to manage incidents of aggression.

Staff have also been trained to de-escalate threatening behaviour.

Mr Rosaia said there was a constant security presence in the emergency department and psychiatric unit.

The new hospital also features seclusion rooms in the emergency department and certain patient wards. The emergency department’s seclusion room can be accessed directly and discreetly from the outside, removing the need for hostile patients to enter the broader emergency department.

The state government’s funding announcement coincides with a new advertising campaign about violence against healthcare workers.