New occupational violence focus after three nurses stabbed

The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) has commended efforts by SafeWork NSW in pursuing new measures to prevent occupational violence in the workplace, following the stabbing of three Sydney nurses in May 2019.

Sydney Local Health District has agreed to a $3 million enforceable undertaking, which includes implementing additional work health and safety initiatives, after failing to ensure the safety of its workers and patients.

Two registered nurses and an enrolled nurse were injured at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown, after a patient grabbed a pair of scissors during a Code Black response. Another patient was also injured during the incident three years ago, while five other staff reported psychological injury after witnessing the attack.

NSWNMA General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said it was imperative all health staff were afforded a safe working environment and more needed to be done to ensure occupational violence ceases to exist.

“Nurses and midwives are continuing to experience violence and aggression in our hospitals and other health settings at significant rates across the state, and this has to end,” said Ms Candish.

“This multi-million dollar enforceable undertaking between Sydney Local Health District and SafeWork NSW is a step in the right direction but this incident, and many others like it, do take a considerable toll on the nurses involved as well as their colleagues who are witnesses.

“The psychological injury to health professionals, who are simply trying to care for their patients safely, is profound. We all must do better in protecting our health workforce.

“The last prosecution of a workplace violence incident in a health setting was in 2007, this is despite pre-pandemic figures indicating 4,370 physical incidents involving hospital health staff in NSW. Nurses are also disproportionately affected, with data showing nurses were impacted by 85.5% of all incidents during the first half of 2019.

“Sadly, two dedicated and highly experienced NSW mental health nurses were killed while at work in recent years, and there have been far too many incidents involving serious injuries to nurses and midwives, from fractures to stabbings.

“Our Work Health and Safety officers will continue to investigate occupational violence matters and will continue to request the involvement of SafeWork NSW to pursue anyone who fails to take the necessary steps to ensure nurses and midwives are safe from violence.”

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