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ACEM President Dr John Bonning said:

“Any workplace, including hospitals, should be safe, and free from the threat of violence, and these latest figures are concerning. Emergency department (ED) staff, like all other employees, have a right to feel safe at work. The safety of staff, patients and visitors at emergency departments and the wider hospital must be a top priority.

We know that many people present to emergency departments in a time of health crisis and urgent need, and that many of these health crises are complex. Occasionally the outbursts are truly due to a medical condition, however in the majority of cases they are unnecessary and unwarranted, and are physically and psychologically damaging to ED staff.

No-one deserves to be assaulted (either physically or verbally) and this further increases the stress that our front-line medical and nursing staff feel every day in EDs around Australia and NZ.”

ACEM Queensland Faculty Chair Dr Kim Hansen said:

“One concerning factor which can contribute to acts of aggression against staff is the issue of access block, where admitted patients in the ED experience significant delays in accessing in-patient beds. This can result in delays to further treatment, and result in frustration for patients.

We also know that mental health patients, in particular, can experience prolonged waits in the ED, which can lead to increased agitation and the increased risk of violence.

The increased use of drugs and alcohol in the community is also reflected in increased presentations to the emergency department. This too can lead to increased instances of assaults or acts of aggression against staff.
Emergency departments need to be resourced and supported so that they can respond properly to complex community health needs in an appropriate way, while also ensuring staff, patients and visitors are safe.”