Safety of security staff at Peel Health Campus questioned

Photo: Mandurah Mail.
Photo: Mandurah Mail.

The working conditions of security officers at Peel Health Campus has been questioned, after an anonymous source and a state union put pressure on the hospital to improve staff safety.

The Mandurah Mail recently 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.

However, security guards on the frontline dealing with violence at Peel Health Campus clearly have their hands full.

A man with connections to the hospital, who requested anonymity, said security staff were at greater risk of harm because of long shifts and lack of staff.

They are basically riding roughshod over the guys knowing that they need their job.

Anonymous source

"These guys are taking hits all the time. They are understaffed on weekends when they have the most code blacks," he said.

"They only have two security staff on at a time so when the two officers attend to any one perpetrator, there are no more to handle any other problems that may arise in the hospital.

"They're doing 12 hours of a big night basically holding and subduing violent people and then still expected to be alert at the end of that shift and get up the next day to do it all again.

"Sometimes that shift turns into 15 or 16 hours because they might have to stick around to write reports and be interviewed."

However, a Peel Health Campus spokeswoman said security staff were not required to work longer than their mandatory hours.

"PHC security staff work 12-hour shifts, which is their preferred and negotiated position and they don't work back-to-back shifts," she said.

"Frontline staff and those attending security incidents, including security officers, are well trained in code black responses and there are contingency plans if required.

"The hospital calls in additional agency security staff during busy periods."

Related content:

Health Services Union of Western Australia (HSUWA) secretary Dan Hill said the union had been made aware of security staffing issues at Peel Health Campus.

"We have been advised that at Peel Health Campus there are currently only two patrol officers to respond to a code black and they have been told that only one security officer needs to attend," he said.

"Two security officers per shift is a minimum however, this means if they are both on patrol or attend a code black the control room is left unmonitored, leaving other staff in the hospital vulnerable.

"Ramsay Health Care states that only one security officer needs to attend a code black and duress alarms. However, in practice and for employee health and safety two security officers will attend for their own wellbeing."

Mr Hill said Ramsay needed to employ more security officers on the ground at Peel Health Campus and also suggested better training was required for other frontline staff.

"A better option would be to increase security officer staffing to three per shift or at least increase the numbers on high risk/incidence shifts," he said.

"The practice as applied at most other sites is that four trained security officers attend a violent incident.

"We suspect it is a cost issue that they are not employing more security officers and they are not required to under its contract with the state government to run the public hospital."

The anonymous source also said security staff has been threatened for trying to take their concerns to a union.

"The contract that the hospital tried to get the security guards to sign would stop them going to the union or they would be sacked," he said.

"They are basically riding roughshod over the guys knowing that they need their job.

"Most of the staff are hoping that the government take it off Ramsay because the staff will be looked after better."

The hospital is unaware of any incident where a security officer was threatened in any way for saying they would go to the union or discuss their circumstances more broadly.

Peel Health Campus spokeswoman

Mr Hill backed the man's claims and said the union was fighting for the rights of security workers at the local hospital.

"The HSUWA has argued for inclusion of security officers in the Ramsay Health Care Enterprise Agreement but the employer has refused," he said.

"Security officers are paid less than their colleagues in other publicly-run public hospitals. This is unfair and unjust.

"The union, in response to the health minister's Stop the Violence summit, continues to argue that security officers in privately-run public hospitals such as Peel Health Campus should have the same powers and protections as those in publicly-run public hospitals and have the same level of training."

However, the Peel Health Campus spokeswoman said they had not been advised of any threats towards security officers for taking action with a union.

"The hospital is unaware of any incident where a security officer was threatened in any way for saying they would go to the union or discuss their circumstances more broadly and it would encourage anyone with concerns to talk to their manager," she said.