Emergency room battle zone

COFFS Harbour Health Campus' emergency department has one of the highest assault rates in the state, according to new statistics.

Fairfax newspapers reported over the weekend that as many was three patients are attacked in NSW public hospital emergency departments each week.

But the North Coast is the worst.

According to the report, which quotes statistics from January 2005 through to June 30 2007, there were 28 assaults in the Coffs Harbour emergency department in that period - some sexual.

The majority of attacks were on doctors, nurses and security staff and were mostly by people affected by drugs and/or alchohol.

According to the statistics, which were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the North Coast has the highest rate of assault in the state, with Lismore experiencing 46, Tweed 29, followed by Coffs Harbour. Port Macquarie ranked sixth with 21.

A spokesperson for the North Coast Area Health Service said yesterday the report was misleading in that it included verbal assaults.

"The figures in the table provided refer to alleged incidents of both a verbal (in the majority of cases) and physical nature," they said in a statement.

"All such alleged incidents were taken seriously and investigated throughly, and appropriate further action taken where necessary.

"Security at North Coast hospitals is managed by a coordinated strategy which includes health and security assistants, security officers and external security firms and physical security measures."

Health Minister Reba Meagher said in a statement there is a zero tolerance policy against violence in the workplace.

"Anyone assaulting staff or patients, or behaving in a violent manner will face the consequences."

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