RISING CONCERNS: Health Services Union is calling for increased security at the region’s hospitals.
RISING CONCERNS: Health Services Union is calling for increased security at the region’s hospitals. Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

"Ice rage" sparks union call for safety of frontline services

AGGRESSIVE and violent behaviour from patients using the drug "ice" is a growing concern for the region's frontline medical staff.

According to the Health Services Union, people suffering from methamphetamine-induced psychosis, or what is more commonly being referred to as "ice rage", are presenting more often at hospitals across the Mid and North Coast.

HSU organiser for Northern NSW and Coffs Harbour, Jonathan Millman, said "shocking incidents of assault and aggression" had been seen across the region's hospitals

"There is no predictability - unlike alcohol issues that usually present in the evenings and over the weekend, patients on ice present to the hospital at any time of day," Mr Millman said.

"Many have not slept in days, and have a high level of aggression."

Mr Millman said patients on the drug are usually escorted to hospital by armed police, but extra security is needed to ensure that staff and patients are safe.

The union is calling for a second trained hospital security guard to be rostered at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus in the morning and daytime hours.

"We've seen an increase in Mid North Coast (hospitals) utilising private contract security guards that typically provide security at local pubs or shopping malls - that is not a satisfactory solution," Mr Millman said.

Coffs Harbour branch Nurses and Midwives Association secretary Amanda Short backed the HSU call for better protection of hospital staff.

"Emergency department staff are at the front line... and in the past several years' security guards have not increased," she said.

Mid North Coast Local Health District chief executive Stewart Dowrick said statewide policies on violence prevention and management in health facilities were in place.

He said training was provided for mental health, emergency department and security staff.

But according to Mr Millman it is not only clinical staff, but also patients who will be affected by "ice rage".

"Staff members cannot perform their jobs if they are running for their lives or their patients' lives in these situations."



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