Duress alarm win at Prince of Wales

Staff in the acute mental health unit and ED at Prince of Wales Hospital are delighted with their new duress alarm system, which offers a higher level of safety than existing models.

A new duress alarm system has given staff at the Kiloh unit and ED at Prince of Wales Hospital peace of mind when it comes to their safety.

The system – which has additional safety features to the basic models previously installed at the hospital – came about after a sustained campaign by the NSWNA’s OHS officers and Branch members.

Kiloh, the acute mental health unit, had problematic duress alarms for several years. After a major incident in which a malfunctioning alarm meant the response to come to the aid of a staff member was delayed, the situation came to a head.

South East Sydney Illawarra Area Health Service (SESIAHS) investigated the incident, and its own risk assessment recommended a new duress alarm system as the existing one did not comply with Health Department guidelines and did not work properly.

The area health service sought quotes but there was a considerable delay, so the Branch became active in pursuing the issue.

ED nurses had also been trying to secure a new duress alarm system for several years.

‘The ED nurses only had the alarms you hang around your neck, which are a risk in themselves, and they weren’t even connected to the security team, so they were pretty much useless,’ said NSWNA Assistant General Secretary Judith Kiejda.

‘It puts a lot of stress on staff who are trying to find someone who is having a major problem, because the alarms would send people to the wrong area. And, of course, it adds to the stress of the person having the problem not knowing if someone will come to their aid.’

Collaboration between the Branch, the OHS officers at the NSWNA and SESIAHS management resulted in the new duress alarm system being prioritised.

At the time The Lamp went to press, the new system – approved by nurses during a consultation process – had been ordered for both departments.

Barbara Daly, NUM in ED, said staff are very happy with the new alarms.

‘It’s a more sophisticated device than we had previously, so the capability and cover are a huge improvement for us. It’s fully integrated and has more capabilities than the basic models, such as a ‘man down’ feature. There’s also voice activation on it, which enhances individual safety. It’s a much-needed safety device for staff.’

In the past, staff were cautious of how they managed patients who could present as a risk to them, according to Barbara.

‘We had to look at where we put people and took into account the visibility of these types of patients. When you’re looking after someone who may be behaviourally challenged, you can’t leave them in isolation; you have to have a visual cue on them.

‘The new alarm system has been a much appreciated gain and staff are really happy about it. It’s a reassurance to us that these devices offer much more in terms of protection than what we had previously.’

The NSWNA understands that SESIAHS is looking at implementing a priority plan of installing the new duress alarm system across the entire area health service.