Low number of incidents at hospital

By anne-marie.emerson@wanganuichronicle.co.nz, Anne-Marie Emerson

Incidents of aggression against staff at Wanganui Hospital are low, according to figures recently released by the Whanganui District Health Board.

The figures were provided to the board at its December 21 meeting after member Michael Laws requested them at an earlier meeting.

The report provided to the board noted that in the past three years, hospital staff have reported 37 incidents - 35 physical, one verbal and one sexual.

Twelve of these injuries resulted in ACC claims.

At the meeting, Mr Laws said he had asked for the information about aggression against staff because he had heard anecdotally that other district health boards were experiencing an increase in aggression and violence.

"But it seems, from these figures, that that is not the case here [in Wanganui]."

Mr Laws questioned why there was only one reported incident of verbal abuse in three years.

The hospital's director of nursing and patient safety, Sandy Blake, said staff often did not report verbal abuse because it was seen as part of the job.

"We do encourage staff to report all incidents, but they accept that sometimes aggression is just part of people being ill," Mrs Blake said.

She said she did not believe aggression was increasing at Wanganui Hospital.

"We have had only 37 incidents over three years and that is pretty low," Mrs Blake said.

She said she believed staff were more likely to report an incident when they were injured as the first step in reimbursement for treatment and lost time.

The majority of the reported injuries and incidents were from staff working at Te Awhina, the hospital's acute mental health unit.

Most of those injuries were sustained during restraint of patients.

Two Te Awhina staff members required surgery due to injuries received while restraining prisoners - one had a severely lacerated and broken finger and the other sustained a torn muscle.

Four incidents were reported at Stanford House, the forensic mental health unit, and one each in the emergency department, the therapies department, and community mental health. There was also one incident in the Waimarino and one in the Rangitikei.

The one sexual incident occurred when an employee was escorting a patient outside the hospital and the employee experienced sexually inappropriate behaviour from a member of the public. A complaint was made to the police.

In 2010, the DHB with the highest number of assaults against staff was Canterbury, with 590. That same year, there were 376 assaults in Counties Manukau, 174 in Auckland and 141 in Waitemata.

The Auckland District Health Board spends more than $2 million a year on security to keep its staff safe. In September the Waikato DHB announced it would boost funding for security after staff made 20 calls for help in just one night to security staff.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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