NOT ON: Emergency staff specialist Dr David Johnson has been physically and verbally assaulted.
NOT ON: Emergency staff specialist Dr David Johnson has been physically and verbally assaulted. Eliza Wheeler

Punching, biting and spitting attacks on our health workers

EVEN when his patient is spitting on him, swearing at him or trying to knock him unconscious, Fraser Coast emergency doctor David Johnson has no choice but to help them.

But emergency staff specialist Dr Johnson is not the only one. So far this year, 21 physical attacks and 13 verbal assaults have been reported in Fraser Coast hospitals and health facilities.

Dr Johnson supports staff members who have been attacked, and has been abused and assaulted more times than he can count.

He said his staff were assaulted more than once a week.

"I have seen staff members with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) symptoms, I've talked to people who have come close to leaving the profession because of assaults," Dr Johnson said.

"It can really impact your relationship with the job; most of us really like what we do, but it makes it harder to treat the individual patient when they're assaulting you and saying terrible things.

"It can be hard to put it aside and help them."

Doctors and nurses are assaulted on a weekly basis on the Coast
Doctors and nurses are assaulted on a weekly basis on the Coast Contributed

He said the fear of being assaulted left some staff members too afraid to go to work.

"No one likes being put into that sort of confrontational situation, especially when you're there to help someone," he said.

According to the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service, the number of recorded assaults per year is increasing on the Fraser Coast; with 111 incidents reported in 2014, and 127 reported in 2015.

The stats showed most attacks were recorded by nursing staff, but operational, administration, professional, medical and technical staff have also reported incidents.

WBHHS CEO Adrian Pennington said the health service was doing what it could to prevent staff assaults.

"We have boosted our security presence in high-risk areas of Fraser Coast facilities and are installing more CCTV cameras in both the Hervey Bay and Maryborough emergency departments," Mr Pennington said.

"Our staff also regularly meet with representatives of the Queensland Police Service to work on how to minimise incidents of occupational violence through early intervention and other techniques, especially in relation to our emergency departments."

In an attempt to stop the scourge of assaults on healthcare workers, the State Government has launched a confronting $1.35 million public awareness campaign. "The ads are full-on but in reality, it can get a lot worse," Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said.

"There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to abuse or physically assault a healthcare worker."

Healthcare assaults

  •  In 2014 there were 46 verbal assaults and 65 physical assaults; Six injuries resulted in lost working time.
  •  In 2015 there were 53 verbal assaults and 74 physical assaults; five injuries resulted in lost working time.


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