Baillie Henderson nurses fear for lives at work

BAILLIE Henderson Hospital nursing staff are increasingly scared for their lives after eight nurses were seriously injured in two separate incidents.

The Queensland Nurses Union has been made aware of two serious assaults on nursing staff in January and July this year.

In both cases, nursing staff have required surgery to repair the physical injuries while the psychological damage is ongoing.

Both assaults on staff occurred in the medium security Ridley Unit, and it is believed the same person was responsible for assaulting staff.

Union organiser Veronica Istvandity said there appeared to be critical shortcomings in terms of security with regards to staff safety, and has called on the Darling Downs Hospital and Health System to review its management practices within Ridley Unit.

"Staff just feel their safety is compromised," Ms Istvandity said.

"They have said there are concerns about illicit drugs coming into the facility and the fact that people that come there have been affected by substances."

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Two of the three nurses seriously injured when a Ridley Unit patient attacked staff in January no longer work in mental health due to ongoing psychological impacts.

Five nurses were seriously injured when a patient attacked on July 30, physically injuring the staff and psychologically harming other nursing staff who witnessed the event.

Ms Istvandity said the incidents had left staff fearing for their lives.

"Five (staff) were injured and there was a large number of staff involved in trying to restrain the person," she said of the July incident.

"Five suffered direct injuries and others will have a psychological impact.

"The staff are also concerned that there's the potential, or there was the potential, for weapons to be used against them.

"I think when you see things like metal supports of a bench that have been worked loose, then you worry that could have been used as a weapon against the staff."

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A metal leg pulled loose from a table was the weapon of choice of the 11 patients who stormed the Ridley Unit nursing staff in January, 2013.

One of the 62 recommendations that came from a Ridley Unit review after the incident mandated no metal legs or bars were to be part of the furniture within the medium secure ward.

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Ms Istvandity said she would address that concern with DDHHS CEO Peter Bristow.

She said the inability of staff to search returning clients to Ridley Unit also placed them in danger.

"Because it is rehabilitation, they get to leave the unit then staff see that their demeanour is different when they come back," she said.

"There are very strict policies about searching people and that sort of stuff.

"That's a concern that I have raised because there is no ability for staff to routinely search every person because that is very prison-like.

"I have had staff say they have made a decision to retire, not just because of their age, but because of their safety."

Ms Istvandity said Queensland Health's Least Restrictive Practices, implemented at health facilities around the country, were restricting options for staff to detain out-of-control patients.

"If everything has to be done in the least restrictive way, how do you protect staff?" she said.

"That is a primary concern because everybody's got the right to go to work and feel safe in their work environment."

Ms Istvandity said the QNU had met with DDHHS management and advised them of staff concerns.



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