Zero tolerance toward violence and aggressive behaviour
Published at: 06 Mar 2020
OCCUPATIONAL VIOLENCE AND AGGRESSION IS SOMETHING THAT HEALTHCARE WORKERS OFTEN EXPERIENCE. THE VIOLENCE AND AGGRESSION CAN COME IN MANY FORMS, FROM PATIENTS AS WELL AS VISITORS. AT GV HEALTH, VIOLENCE AND AGGRESSION TOWARDS STAFF IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.
GV Health’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing manager Sue Christie has worked in the public health safety sector for about two decades.
Ms Christie said she had seen an increase in occupational violence and aggression (OVA) incidents during her career.
She said there were a number of procedures in place to deal with incidents at GV Health.
“This includes an OVA procedure manual,” she said.
Ms Christie said the manual assisted staff members in knowing what to do during OVA incidents.
“We also have flyers and screensavers up around the health service educating our staff on the duress buttons, and the importance of activating them when necessary,” she said.
“We have three security guards on – there is one in the emergency department 24/7 and the other two that support the needs of the Graham Street campus.”
Ms Christie said incidents of OVA often took place in the emergency department and could stem from a number of different reasons.
“We do have a lot of aggression … it’s getting worse,” she said.
Ms Christie said an increase in the number of patients who presented to the emergency department affected by drugs and alcohol had played a huge part in the increase in incidents, but OVA also took place as a result of mental illness or the fear and uncertainty people may have when requiring urgent medical care.
“Fear plays a big part,” she said and added that patients were often in an unfamiliar environment and could be incredibly worried about their health and wellbeing.
Ms Christie said staff were trained to respond to Code Grey incidents, which referred to someone being verbally aggressive, as well as Code Black incidents which referred to a situation where a staff member felt threatened and was unable to safely defuse or remove themselves from a situation of harm; these incidents can involve a weapon of some kind.
Police are called during Code Black events to assist GV Health staff with managing and containing the situation.
“Our Code Greys have gone up; on average we could have 41 Code Grey events per month,” she said.
There were no Code Black incidents during January this year but five events took place in December last year.
GV Health chief executive Matt Sharp said there were a number of staff involved in a Code Grey response team ranging from security right through to clinical staff.
“The reason why we have a multi-disciplinarily team is because sometimes the root cause of a violent or aggressive incident could be a medical reason in terms of what has triggered it and is driving it,” he said.
Ms Christie highlighted the fact GV Health would not hesitate in calling the police, when it was deemed necessary, to safely control a situation.
“We have on occasions called for police assistance, not only for incidents involving patients, but visitors as well,” she said.
Ms Christie said verbal abuse was the more common form of OVA, but this could have just as much of an impact on staff as physical violence.
“You have got to treat staff with respect; don’t come in an abuse the staff because you do not know what’s happening in the background,” she said.
Offenders will be banned
GV Health’s chief executive Matt Sharp said violence and aggressive behaviour toward staff was not tolerated at the healthcare service.
“Organisationally, from my point of view, it’s a really serious issue,” he said.
“It’s not acceptable and it’s not okay when people put staff and patients at risk related to OVA.”
Mr Sharp said the ramifications could be far reaching, including the damage done to those who simply witnessed OVA at the health service.
“Where we see some challenges related to that is particularly in our mental health units where we might have a consumer who may have been exposed to violence and aggression in a past point of their life; to then see that again can trigger those thoughts and feelings that they may have experienced in the past,” he said.
“We need to be conscious about the impact OVA has on patients but then also the repeated impact it has on our staff.”
Mr Sharp said when the behaviour was at its most extreme, GV Health would issue ‘not welcome’ notices to offenders.
“Sometimes we do see people just behaving badly – there’s no clinical reason, they’re not substance affected, and they don’t have a medical condition or a mental health condition – they’re just behaving badly,” he said.
“Those circumstances are occurring more frequently … which is probably a reflection of what’s happening more broadly in society and a lack of respect for community-based services and organisations that play a really important role in the community.
“At its most extreme, and we’re confident that that’s the case, I am issuing ‘not welcome’ notices for people and we do have a behaviour contract so if they do need to access the services, they know the conditions of how to behave and interact with staff.”
Mr Sharp said, in the event circumstances became worse, he would ban people.
“It doesn’t happen very often, but we will ban people from receiving services in order to protect the safety of staff, patients and other visitors,” he said.
“When these circumstances do happen we are generally working very closely with police."