23 Dec 2023

More security at EDs helpful but doesn't target main issue - union

1:44 pm on 23 December 2023
medicine, healthcare and pandemic concept - sad young female doctor or nurse wearing face protective mask for protection from virus disease sitting on floor at hospital

File photo. Photo: 123RF

A boost to hospital security should not distract from the main reason patients end up frustrated and abusive, says a union for nurses.

The government has announced that $5.7 million will be spent on hiring an extra 200 security guards at emergency departments throughout the country over summer.

Te Whatu Ora said there were 1267 assaults at its hospitals between January and March this year alone - more than the total for 2021.

The extra 200 security guard roles would be funded till late February, he said.

But the president of the Nurses Organisation Kerri Nuku said while that would ensure the safety of workers, it did not target the real problem, which is that staffing shortages contribute to patient frustrations.

"It doesn't go towards reducing or eliminating the issue that we have at hand, which is the short staffing of registered nurses [and] healthcare workers.

"Let's be very clear here, security guards do not replace the role of a registered nurse. It's more registered nurses and doctors that we need in EDs."

Nuku also raised concerns about the risk of Māori and Pasifika being restricted from freely accessing hospital care because of more security guards.

"It's important that we don't start stereotyping particular types of people from accessing public health services.

"We're hopeful that with training and support for the security guards that they're able to ... do their work safely without compromising members of [the] public."

But Nuku said the funding boost was welcomed by hospital staff who had experienced abuse.

She was hoping for better security all year round, not just over the summer.

"EDs have become ... increasingly busy. There's been increased mental health [issues] in communities - those aren't seasonal, those are all the time so certainly, there has to be a long term strategy around what does security look like, what does workforce safety look like," she said.

Health Minister Dr Shane Reti said he was working on a longer-term plan to improve security in hospitals.

"We'll learn a lot from this period of time, have we got the numbers right for the eight high risk hospitals five FTE [full-time equivalent positions], is that the right number? It's my plan to bring up a proposal to have pervasive improved security across all of the emergency departments."

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