Wairarapa Hospital. PHOTO/FILE

Greater emphasis put on reporting incidents

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

The number of physical assaults on Wairarapa District Health Board staff members has been on the rise since 2016.

However, a strong reporting culture could be part of the rise, the DHB and staff say.

Documents made public under the Official Information Act show that in 2016, five cases of physical violence against staff were reported.

In 2017, that number more than doubled reaching 11 before climbing to 14 in 2018.

However, 2018 levels are not the highest in recent years – in 2015 there were 18 incidents of physical violence reported against staff.

In its OIA response, the DHB said it was unable to determine between professions but wrote that “the majority of the incidents are against registered nurses and health care assistants”.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Wairarapa delegate Lucy McLaren said nurses had “huge support”, from the DHB around physical, verbal and sexual abuse.

“We’re encouraged to report everything.”

While McLaren said there may have been an increase she thought the fact that staff were encouraged to report abuse may have added to the increase.

McLaren didn’t think physical abuse was prominent, but nor was it infrequent.

Wairarapa DHB communications manager Anna Cardno said the safety of patients and staff was a key priority. The DHB had recently increased security staffing.

“At Wairarapa DHB we ensure that in the event of an incident that threatens personal safety, our staff have a responsibility to report it through an escalation pathway. It is then assessed to determine if any immediate action is required to address personal safety.

“All adverse events reported are reviewed and, wherever necessary, changes are identified and implemented to improve the safety of all that work within and access our healthcare service.”

Cardno said that registered nurses and health care assistants make up approximately half the DHB’s workforce.

“While no assault is acceptable, it is unsurprising that the majority of physical assaults are reported by the nursing cohort.

“Clinical staff deal directly with patients who may be suffering a range of conditions, including delirium, etc. Not all assaults are the result of deliberate action.”

Cardno said over the past few years a greater emphasis had been placed on the importance of reporting incidents.

“It is likely the increase in reporting in the 2015 year relates to our targeted and ongoing focus to ensure that issues are properly documented.”

Assaults on DHB staff

9 – 2013

6 – 2014

18 – 2015

5 – 2016

11 – 2017

14 – 2018