19 Apr 2024

Extra security for most high-risk hospital emergency departments almost halved

5:22 am on 19 April 2024
More than 3000 people work at Dunedin Hospital.

Dunedin Hospital is having the number of government funded round-the-clock security guards at its ED drop from five to two. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The extra security provided to the highest risk hospital emergency departments was almost halved when the government extended the programme.

In response to a series of assaults and pleas by ED staff, the government funded round-the-clock security guards for summer, as part of its 100 day plan.

At the end of summer, Health Minister Shane Reti said he would extend that boost until 30 June for the eight riskiest EDs - but at a slightly lower level.

Te Whatu Ora now clarified that meant a drop from funding five extra round-the-clock security guards, to two at Dunedin Hospital.

At the other EDs - Christchurch, Wellington, Waikato, Waitematā, Middlemore, Waitakere and North Shore - the drop was to three extra guards.

A Te Whatu Ora spokesperson said the guards were assigned various task in the EDs.

"Including being stationed at the entrance, in the waiting area, and within the department. They also supported in-house security teams when required, including being deployed to lower risk duties (such as patrolling car parks) so that experienced security staff could be freed to work in ED," she said.

Doctors had been calling for a long-term commitment to well-trained guards, stationed in departments at all times.

Nurses Organisation president Anne Daniels said security guards were important right now but were really a much needed band aid covering problems.

Nurses wanted to see a wider plan to boost the number of doctors and nurses working in both GP clinics and hospitals, she said.

That would both prevent frustrations building up in emergency departments, and decrease the amount of people who needed emergency care, she said.

"It saddens me that we do need security guards in the first place, but the fact is people are angry and tired and sick of waiting," she said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs