The grave reality facing healthcare workers

MAURICE Blackburn Lawyers Rockhampton have thrown their legal weight behind a campaign to show how violent Queensland healthcare workplaces can be. 

The $1.35 million awareness campaign, launched this week by minister for health and ambulance services Cameron Dick, offers great significance to Central Queensland health workers, stuck amidst the ice epidemic battlegrounds. 

Rockhampton branch senior associate Meghan Rothery welcomed the awareness campaign saying the "violence and aggressive behaviour towards healthcare workers was a grave reality".

"We are unfortunately not talking just about behaviour that our healthcare workers have to tolerate," Meghan said. 

"In some instances we are seeing a violent and aggressive behaviour that actually seriously compromises the health and safety of our healthcare workers. And in some situation causes serious injury. 

"We have represented a number of workers in Queensland who have sustained serious injury as a result of an attack from a patient. Sometimes those injuries are so serious they cause the worker to cease work, and in some cases it ends their career and leave them with symptoms that are life lasting. 

"Certainly we have represented Central Queensland healthcare workers involved in violent attacks. We have seen both physical and psychological injuries. The attacks can be so distressing and violent that the result for the worker can include post-traumatic stress for the worker." 

While the awareness campaign is a part of the answer, Meghan explained it was not the whole solution. 

"Employers need to have a high duty of care to ensure their workers are working in a safe place and within a safe system," she said. 

"They need to have reasonable and adequate measures in place to safeguard workers against the possibility of these aggressive and violent attacks. More specific trainings and procedures of how to respond to aggressive behaviour." 

The relatively new ice epidemic in Central Queensland is an on-going issue and the healthcare workers are right in the firing line. 

"We have recently represented healthcare workers that say due to the issues with ice use, and they are seeing a more violent and unpredictable behaviour than they have seen in decades," she said. 

"That suggests that some of the systems to safeguard against healthcare workers may need to be reviewed given this relatively new ice epidemic. We have represented people who have suffered attacks at the hands of an ice addict." 

Mr Dick said Queenslanders should not be fearful going to work.

"When most Queenslanders go to work they don't have to factor in being assaulted as part of their day," Mr Dick said. 

"Sadly, being punched, bitten, slapped, kicked and even spat on is a reality for healthcare workers. 

"Last financial year more than 3300 healthcare workers were physically assaulted and let's be clear, it's not on. 

"Any person found guilty for assaulting a healthcare worker can receive up to 14 years in prison." 

Mr Dick said he was aware that the new campaign was not the sole solution, but a step in the right direction. 

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