Page 4553 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 31 October 2018

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Mental health—occupational violence

MRS JONES: My question is to the Minister for Mental Health and Minister for Corrections and Justice Health. I refer to an answer to Mrs Dunne's question on notice 1567 regarding assaults on staff. Minister, you advised that there were 129 assaults on staff in mental health, corrections health and alcohol and drug services between 1 January 2017 and 30 June 2018. What actions have you taken in order to reduce the high number of assaults on staff in your areas of ministerial responsibility?

MR RATTENBURY: As I have canvassed in response to previous questions on this matter, I had a conversation with the Chief Nurse who is developing the nurse safety strategy. As I have told this chamber before, I have emphasised to her my expectation that that strategy will address the needs of staff in the mental health space because, as we have discussed, they face particular risks due to the patients they are working with who can be prone to behavioural issues and potentially violent outbursts, as we have witnessed through a number of recent incidents. That has been the primary focus.

Obviously the senior executives are party to those discussions, and I have made it clear that I expect these matters to be dealt with. I am awaiting the final nurse safety strategy, which I believe is quite close to being finished.

MRS JONES: Minister, what response have you given to calls by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation for better violence management training of staff working in these areas?

MR RATTENBURY: I have met a number of times recently with the ANMF and I have personally said to them that I agree with them that people should not be subject to violence in the workplace, as I discussed this morning. They have raised a number of ideas with me about how that can be addressed. There is now a situation set up whereby the CEO of Canberra Health Services has a fortnightly meeting with the head of the ANMF. Certainly, one of the key agenda items in those discussions is the issue of occupational violence. I have asked the CEO to take on board the suggestions from the ANMF and give me advice on how elements of that will be progressed.

MRS DUNNE: Minister, has security for staff working in high-risk areas such as Dhulwa been reduced in recent times and, if so, why?

MR RATTENBURY: I have had no reports to that effect. There has been a discussion about whether the number of security staff should be increased. I have, in a number of conversations with the nurses federation and with senior executives, canvassed this issue. The difficult question is to find the right number of security staff. These are meant to be therapeutic environments. We do not want an over-presence of security staff and a sense that it is more of a correctional facility. At the same time we need enough security staff that our health staff are adequately supported. That is the difficult discussion. In some of these incidents the security staff are present and available but they occur so quickly that the security staff are not able to intervene before injuries are inflicted. This is a challenging operational discussion that we need to continue to work through.

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