Security Win For Blacktown ED

24/7 security guard appointed to Blacktown ED, pending review after nurse stabbing.

Members at Blacktown Hospital Branch demanded an external review of security arrangements in the Emergency Department (ED) and the immediate installation of a security guard 24 hours a day, seven days a week, following a knife attack on a nurse by a patient.

On 12 July, a nurse was stabbed multiple times and punched by a patient in the hospital ED. The nurse was treated at the hospital and later discharged.

NSWNA Blacktown Hospital Branch held a rally at the hospital three days after the attack to highlight the need to immediately address serious security concerns.

Nurses demanded an independent review into security arrangements and the appointment of permanent security in the ED, including a say in the job description of security staff employed. In addition, they called for ED staff to be given duress alarms, the removal of crockery and metal cutlery that can be used as a weapon, and face-to-face aggression management to be delivered to all ED staff within six months, and to 70% of general hospital staff within 12 months.

Hospital management agreed to the review and to look at alternatives to crockery and metal cutlery and initially agreed to provide a security guard from 10pm to 6am. However, members felt this was inadequate and passed a resolution at a Branch meeting demanding the immediate installation of security staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also planned to stop work and hold another community rally.

Management responded in good faith and agreed to provide interim 24/7 security in the ED while the review and negotiations were taking place, so the NSWNA called off the planned industrial action.

Branch President Maureen Buckley, CNC, said management have acted in a timely and positive manner.

‘They put 24/7 security in the ED the same afternoon that the resolution was passed and it remains while negotiations continue. Members also requested as part of the resolution that they wanted to have a say in the job description of ED security staff as permanent hospital-employed staff and not contractors,’ said Maureen.

Canan Ugras, an RN who works in the ED, said nurses were hopeful of a positive outcome of the security review and stressed how important it was that they feel safe in the workplace.

‘During the days after the attack, the mood among nursing staff was initially anger, which then turned to fear,’ she told The Lamp. ‘We had to keep coming back to a work environment in which nothing had changed – we didn’t have 24-hour security guards or anyone telling us we’d get duress alarms. We were hyper-vigilant when it came to patients raising their voice to us or getting into our personal space. We were fearful and depressed.’

Canan and her colleagues were determined to push for change. ‘We put our recommendations in a booklet and our NUM took it to meetings. We’ve been told that management are looking into changing the cutlery and advertising for a permanent 24-hour security guard. We also now have duress alarms for staff working at the front of the ED, but we’re pushing for all ED staff to get them.’

NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes said the attack highlighted the risks many nurses and other hospital staff face. ‘Every effort must continue to be made to ensure their safety and the safety of other patients,’ said Brett.

The results of the security review were expected as The Lamp went to print.