Staff and medics at The Tweed Hospital are under siege from people under the influence of ice with hundreds of assaults taking place in there past year, according to the state nurses union.
The hospital at times resembles a battlefield with the violence, and riot police were recently called there to restrain a drug-affected man who had broken the hospital’s safe room window with his head.
The news comes as the coalition government defends last week’s revelation that Tweed Hospital was one of seven hospitals statewide at which infants were given to the wrong mothers for breastfeeding, exposing them to serious health risks.
NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) is calling on the state government to increase staff security at the hospital after more than 2,000 incidents of aggression at the hospital in the past year.
Sheila O’Meara told the ABC this morning that violent episodes usually start in the emergency department and continue in the wards, and that up to five members were off on workers compensation due to attacks.
Ms O’Meara said the union was pushing for protocols to be changed so contracted hospital security staff were able to help restrain drug-affected for violent patients.
NSW Labor says the Baird government has been too slow in responding to the scourge of ice and failed to provide enough treatment beds for ice (methamphetamine) affected patients.
But Tweed MP Geoff Provest says he was assured during a visit on Friday to the hospital that efforts to curb violence there was being improved, ‘bearing in mind’ annual emergency-unit admissions a year of 48,000 was double the average for north coast hospitals.
The Labor Opposition said it will offer its bipartisan support to ‘any sensible proposal’ to respond to the violence when parliament resumes next month.
Labor’s health spokesman Walt Secord said the issue of violence and ice, particularly in rural and coastal areas. was urgent with a seven fold increase between 2009 and 2014 of ice-related presentations in NSW hospitals, and incidents such as the recent shooting at Nepean Hospital.
Sorry, wrong baby!
Meanwhile, Labor says last week’s reports of child-feeding mix ups in NSW hospitals on seven occasions in the four years from 2011 and 2015 shows there is a crisis in the public hospital system.
The Tweed and Grafton Hospitals were among facilities that handed mothers the wrong child for breast feeding, which NSW health minister Jillian Skinner says were rare mistakes as a result of human error.
Mr Secord said ’mixing up babies is devastating for the bonding of a new mum and a baby, this is about fracturing that bond, t’ere are concerns on several levels – the psychological bond and the potential health effects’.
He said the figures ‘could actually even be higher as we have no data or no information on private hospitals, so the government has to come clean on this, reveal all the details of the public hospitals and extend the monitoring to private hospitals’.
Late last week, Mrs Skinner issued a press release confirming the incidents but giving no details, saying they were reported as ‘expressed breast-milk errors’, and in all cases the error was discovered soon after they occurred and the families advised.
The minister, through her spokesperson, then outlined her department’s ‘strict protocol for identification of newborns to avoid the possibility of babies being lost, misplaced or switched while in hospital’.
‘In the rare cases where babies were given to the wrong mother to feed, immediate serology testing and breast milk screening was done, and the mother was offered support and counselling,’ she said.
But Mr Secord said the mixups were a symptom on an over-stressed health system
‘This is the human cost of the massive cuts to the health system. Nurses have said that they’re short staffed and when you are under-resourced, mistakes happen,he said.
One of the new mums, Stefanie Phillips, told media she was shocked that her baby girl was given to the wrong mother to breastfeed, in November last year and that it left her unable to breastfeed her own daughter.
Ms Phillips told the Seven Network she was overwhelmed after Gosford Hospital staff told her that her baby Ellie had been breastfed by another mother after a period in the hospital’s nursery.
‘[I was told] the other mother has breastfed your daughter for two hours and got photos with her, skin-on-skin, did everything I wanted to do with her,’ she told Seven News.