A state wide protest by health workers over hospital safety is being supported by Health Services Union (HSU) members at both Tweed Heads and Lismore hospitals this afternoon.
‘We’ve had patients in the emergency department with knives and trying to take guns off police. We had one man who came in with a spade calling it a “pacifier”’, said local HSU representative Bill Oddie.
‘Currently we have staff at Tweed Heads and Lismore that are off work with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). One 69 year old worker had decided to take his long service leave and on his last day of work he was assaulted. I doubt he’s going to be coming back.’
Rallies are taking place throughout the state with the main rally involving a picket at the Ministry of Health in St Leonards in Sydney.
Mr Oddie was quick to point out that the rally is not against the local health district but that it is the ministry of health that is at fault.
‘It is just not safe. There are patients trying to stab staff with needles or headbutt them and we want people to know what we are putting up with.’
Paramedics are also taking action and won’t be responding to routine calls or taking people’s billing details for four hours today.
More training needed
‘What we want is more training in drug, alcohol and mental health issues for staff,’ said Mr Oddie.
‘We are looking for more security guards but were only offered 15 extra security guards across the state six months ago and this is not enough to address security issues across the state.’
Mr Oddie also said that they would like security staff to have greater powers to search and detain people, similar to the powers enjoyed by the police, though without guns, to ensure people are not bringing any type of weapons into the hospital.
A trial by the local health district of more security officers at Lismore since December is working well, said Mr Oddie .
However, he says it is important that everyone who works in the health system is able to be safe at work.
‘[The current situation is] unacceptable. If you come to work then you expect to go back home in the same condition,’ he said.
More than 50 per cent of the staff at the Tweed Heads and Lismore hospitals are members of the HSU and while they are taking time for the rally they will ensure that patient care and safety will not be at risk.
‘This is the first state wide strike and this will be the first time a lot of these people have done this’, said Mr Oddie.
Originally the strike at Tweed Heads and Lismore hospitals was set to run from 12 till 4pm however, this has been reduced to a one hour strike.