Patients 'lashing out' on the rise

Last updated 12:00 09/12/2013

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Incidents of MidCentral District Health Board patients lashing out this year have affected staff, other patients and even a visitor.

Figures obtained under Official Information Act reveal there were 140 incidents from January to November 15, with 49 injuries.

The board does not use the term "assault" for classification purposes.

There were 41 incidents involving staff, including 29 injuries, 98 incidents involving other patients, resulting in 20 injuries, and one incident involving a visitor.

The Mental Health service had the highest number of incidents for both staff and patients.

New Zealand Nursing Organisation Palmerston North organiser Donna Ryan said it was deplorable that health professionals were assaulted while they were working to support and assist patients.

"These assaults seem to be occurring more frequently, in spite of increased security measures," she said.

"Perpetrators need to be aware that not only are they compromising the wellbeing of staff but also putting other patients at risk due to likely delays in delivering the care they need."

MidCentral District Health Board patient safety and clinical effectiveness director Muriel Hancock said the health and safety of staff, visitors and other patients was paramount.

"All staff have health and safety training, covering aspects of keeping themselves safe," she said. "Clinical staff undertake comprehensive assessments and management of patients, and where appropriate this includes the assessment of risk of violence and ensuring steps are taken to ensure the safety of staff and others within the environment."

Ms Hancock said MidCentral Health has a zero tolerance approach to abusive or violent behaviour on the part of anyone, and staff are supported in addressing issues when they arise.

"Security services are on site 24/7 and provide rapid response calls for assistance," she said.

"For services or environments where there is a higher risk of injury to staff or others, access to duress alarms and other alert systems is provided, along with specialist training in de-escalation and appropriate management of incidents.

"Community-based and higher-risk services have a range of procedures in place to reduce risk of injury, for example for entering high-risk situations without preparation and support in place."

Ms Hancock said when an incident was considered a criminal act, police are notified.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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