Australian Union Calls for More Hospital Security Guards Amid Increased Violence

The Health and Services Union (HSU) has called for more security guards at Australia’s John Hunter Hospital for staff, patient and visitor safety among “sky-high” levels of violence.

The Health and Services Union (HSU) has called for more security guards at Australia’s John Hunter Hospital for staff, patient and visitor safety among “sky-high” levels of violence.

In the case of a violent or aggressive incident, John Hunter Hospital security guards are supposed to respond in pairs. But according to HSU secretary Gerard Hayes, there have been “numerous” occasions with “multiple incidents” taking place simultaneously, leaving only one—or no—officer available to respond.

"The number of staff that are employed to undertake security at John Hunter - one of the biggest regional hospitals there is - is inadequate," Hayes said. "You may have a situation where one or two of the security guards may be required to stay with the patient for some time - so they are taken out of the frame altogether. So if you have another incident in the general hospital area, you've got one person - or maybe no one, available.”

According to a Hunter New England Health spokesperson who spoke with The Herald, that if two simultaneous incidents of violence or aggression require security attendance, “two Security Officers attend the first, and a Security Officer and Senior Security Officer attend the second. If there is a protracted incident, additional staff can be called in to ensure capacity is maintained.”

Hayes said the union and its members at John Hunter Hospital want to be “proactive, to stop reacting to issues as they arise … Clearly they don’t have the capacity to do that.”

John Hunter has three security guards “on the floor,” with a senior security officer posted at the security office. A fifth officer is added for 12 hours five nights a week and eight hours on Monday and Tuesday nights.

"Our members are calling for eight staff per shift to ensure the safety of the hospital assets, of the staff, of the patients, and the visitors,” Hayes said.

The Hunter New England Health spokesperson said all facilities were currently undergoing a review of security services in consultation with the HSU, to be completed by the end of April. The spokesperson said the organization would wait for the outcome of the security review before making decisions about staffing.

The last increase in security officer staffing took place in 2010. There were 1429 security incidents reported in 2014.

Hayes said union members had reported that aggression levels at the hospital facilities were “sky high.”

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