Staff safety must come before patient safety if we’re to end violence in healthcare facilities

Deputy Secretary at NSW Health, Karen Crawshaw highlighted the importance of putting staff safety first if we’re to curb increasing violent incidents in our healthcare facilities, during her address at the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association’s (NSWNMA) 71st Annual Conference in Sydney.
“There are increasing challenges managing aggression and decreasing violence against staff,” Ms Crawshaw said.
According to NSW Health data, 85 per cent of staff who are victims of abuse are nurses and almost all of those who instigated violence were inpatients.
General Secretary of the NSWNMA, Brett Holmes, agreed that nurse safety needed to be put first if we’re to end violence in healthcare facilities.
“What I’ve heard from Karen is that staff safety comes before patient safety. Clearly, if nurses are not looked after, they can’t look after their patients,” Mr Holmes said.
Ms Crawshaw also cited ‘good luck’ as the main reason we have not had more serious violent incidents in our hospital emergency departments.
“It’s more, to some degree, good luck than good management, that we have in some cases not had more serious incidents,” Ms Crawshaw said.
Around 780 nurses, midwives, members and guests from across the state gathered at Rosehill Gardens Grand Pavilion during Professional Day, which marks the start of the three day conference.
Keynote speaker, Andrew Denton, explained his public views on why assisted dying should be available to all Australians.
“It still amazes me that we live in a society where it is legally and ethically acceptable for a dying patient to choose a slow, psychologically painful death by dehydration and starvation but legally and ethically unacceptable for that same dying patient to choose a death that is quick and painless,” said Denton.
Dementia activist and author, Kate Swaffer, spoke about what it’s like to live with early-onset dementia. Swaffer, who suffers from semantic dementia, went from a healthy background with a very high IQ and photographic memory to some days not even being able to remember her husband’s name.
Conference attendees also heard from Chief Economist at The Australia Institute, Richard Denniss on the obstacles preventing Australia from being able to afford high quality healthcare.
“We’ve created a public debate that suggests collecting more tax from closing tax loop holes and concessions, rather than spending more money on job-creating services like healthcare, would somehow wreck the economy. It’s fake economics,” Dr Denniss said.
“Healthcare creates the most jobs per million spent and five times the amount of jobs than the same spent on mining. We could collect more tax or reduce subsidies on industries that create almost no jobs and spend that money on industries, like yours, that employ more people and help others.”
Economics Editor of The Age and former Treasury official, Peter Martin also covered the broader topic of why inequality is such a big deal.
“It’s only in the last 30 years that Australia has started to become more unequal. In that time, BHP’s CEO has gone from being paid six times the average earnings to 250 times the average earnings. Inequality is too high and we’re going in the wrong direction because minimum wage is shrinking, unionisation is shrinking and tax concessions are going to the rich,” Mr Martin said.
Newly-appointed Chief Nursing & Midwifery Officer at NSW Health, Jacqui Cross also addressed the crowd.
Tomorrow, NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, will address delegates and members, then take questions from the floor on her recent controversial decision to remove the legislation for registered nurses in nursing homes, state health funding and unsafe staffing in our regional hospitals. Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Lee Thomas and Assistant Federal Secretary, Annie Butler will also speak.
The 71st Annual Conference runs until Friday, July 22, at Rosehill Gardens Grand Pavilion, Sydney.

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