EMERGENCY department staff are being assaulted by drug fueled patients as the number of urgent calls to respond to violent patients soars by close to a quarter.
Ballarat Health Services data shows the number of code grey incidences at the Ballarat Base Hospital emergency department increased by 23.33 per cent in 2015 alone. A code grey is a code called when there is an unfolding risk of violence.
In 2014 115 code greys were called in the emergency department. It shot up to 150 code grey calls in 2015.
Ballarat Base Hospital acting chief executive Andrew Kinnersly said a recent court case where a man was jailed for biting and spitting a doctor highlighted the violence staff were forced to deal with.
“Unfortunately it does happen (often), we’ve really improved the reporting of code greys,” Mr Kinnersly said.
“We’ve had examples of patients biting and spitting, unfortunately it’s a lot more common than it should be.
“There is a zero tolerance toward violence.”
When a code grey is called a designated response team – consisting of security staff, a clinical lead and staff in the immediate vicinity – respond. Police are called to the hospital “if required” Mr Kinnersly said.
He said anecdotal evidence suggested police were called to the emergency department around two to three times a month to deal with violent situations.
The number of security staff at the hospital has grown by 34 per cent in the past 18 months to cope with the levels of violence.
“We take all (violent) incidences extremely seriously,” Mr Kinnersly said.
We’ve had examples of patients biting and spitting, unfortunately it’s a lot more common than it should be.- Andrew Kinnersly
The hospital has also engaged a number of preventative measures in a bid to reduce patient frustration and the violence that may result from frustration.
CCTV is now operating in the emergency department and triage wards so security can see unfolding violence and be on high alert.
The hospital has also trained 800 staff in the management of clinical aggression. They are trained about risk assessment, reduction and awareness.
Hospital data does not break down the reason code greys are called, but Mr Kinnersley said anecdotal evidence pointed to an increase in the number of drug fueled violent incidences.
“Clearly, it (drug addiction) is a community problem. The number of people affected by drugs is significant,” Mr Kinnersley said.
The increase comes as Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria assistant secretary Danny Hill said paramedics were regularly abused by drug-affected patients, with some kicked in the stomach and stomped on when trying to help patients.
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