Health minister calls summit to 'stop the violence' at Peel Health Campus

West Australian health minister Roger Cook has vowed to stop the violence at Peel Health Campus, calling an emergency summit in an effort to tackle the issue of increasing aggressive behaviour.

The Mandurah Mail last week reported on the number of times medical staff at Peel Health Campus felt personally threatened by patients.

Statistics show that between January 1 and April 30, 2019, the hospital had 210 code blacks - almost two every day.

Code blacks are incidents or threats of violence that pose a personal risk to staff, patients or visitors within a hospital.

Mr Cook will host an emergency summit later this month after a push from the state's medical unions to break the cycle of aggression at Peel Health Campus and across WA's hospitals.

I want to see a new, system-wide and consistent approach across our public hospitals in response to violence.

WA health minister Roger Cook

"I have convened a Stop the Violence summit to examine how we can improve safety for public health workers, including the possibility of increasing the powers of hospital security officer," he said.

"I expect all health service providers to ensure they have the appropriate level of security to protect their workers and patients in the hospitals they manage.

"I want to see a new, system-wide and consistent approach across our public hospitals in response to violence.

"These are difficult and complex issues, however we must act and be clear - violence will not be tolerated."

Mr Cook said the safety of frontline medical staff was of "paramount importance".

"I will not tolerate violent or aggressive behaviour towards staff and that, of course, includes all the hardworking employees at Peel Health Campus," he said.

"Frontline staff are well trained in de-escalation of aggression and there are duress alarms located throughout the hospital, some staff in high risk areas also wear pendant alarms.

"I'm advised security officers are present in the emergency department at Peel Health Campus and are on standby to assist in other areas at all times.

"The hospital has an excellent relationship with the local police, who respond quickly if needed."

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The summit was welcomed by Australian Medical Association WA (AMA WA) emergency medicine spokesman Dr David Mountain.

He told the Mandurah Mail it was time for the state government to safeguard medical staff.

"[The AMA] have called on the government to step up with this for a long time so this is not new but it is increasing," he said.

"Decongesting the ED and making sure there are beds for mental health patients and drug and alcohol patients should be a high priority but it hasn't been for any government for the last 10-15 years.

"They are putting in a behavioural assessment unit in Royal Perth Hospital ED but I don't see why it should just be one ED when all the emergency departments are suffering the same problems and consequences.

"Nurses and doctors and orderlies and security guards - they should all be able to go to work and feel safe."

Nurses and doctors and orderlies and security guards - they should all be able to go to work and feel safe.

Australian Medical Association WA emergency medicine spokesman Dr David Mountain

Health Services Union WA (HSUWA) were one of the leading voices in pushing for a summit on the issue.

HSUWA secretary Dan Hill said the number of code blacks called, particularly at Peel Health Campus, was "extremely alarming".

"All violence is very upsetting for people involved and those observing it," he said.

"Hospital staff should be able to go to work every day knowing they will be safe and not subject to violence or threats of violence.

"The same applies to patients and members of the public attending hospitals and health services."

Mr Hill said violence against frontline workers in WA hospitals was becoming a "regular and constant occurrence".

"Sadly violence in our hospitals is a reflection of what is happening in our wider community," he said.

"Violence, physical aggression, spitting, aggressive shouting and other behaviour is increasing.

"There are statistics available to show violence against health workers is increasing and there are a number of factors which are contributing to this increase.

"The prevalence of methamphetamine use and underfunded mental health services come in at the top of the list."

Sadly violence in our hospitals is a reflection of what is happening in our wider community.

Health Services Union WA secretary Dan Hill

Mr Hill said the union would participate in the upcoming summit and called on the government to implement a number of new initiatives and address the issue "sooner rather than later".

"We want to ensure that all health service staff are protected by the full force of the law, including ensuring that all staff employed in public hospitals are treated as public officers for the purposes of the law where prosecutions arise in regard to violent incidents in and around hospitals and health services," he said.

"Also set a minimum standard for the number and training of security officers across all hospitals with an ED and set a standard of training for all frontline staff.

"Also ensure that security officers have clearly defined powers and authority they require to be able to effectively and efficiently carryout their role."

HSUWA have also called for more funding for mental health services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation services and emergency departments to ensure patients are treated urgently and appropriately.