Hospital Security 'At Crisis Point' After Sydney Shooting
Medical staff are pleading for more security after yet more attacks on paramedics and hospital workers.
The secretary of the Health Service Union spoke outside a hospital in Sydney's west where a man who allegedly threatened security staff was shot by police, saying the state's health system was at "crisis point".
Nepean Hospital was the scene of similar incident back in 2016 when a man allegedly shot a police officer and a security guard after grabbing the officer's gun during a scuffle. Since then, there have been a spate of troubling attacks involving hospital staff and paramedics nationwide.
"New South Wales hospitals, and the security within them, is at crisis point," Hayes said on Friday.
"It's now time for the Berejiklian government to stand up and say health security is a prime issue that needs to be dealt with."
The HSU is urgently calling for 250 security guards in NSW hospitals to have "special constable powers" following the incident on Thursday afternoon.
Police have launched a critical investigation after a 54-year-old man walked into the front area of the emergency department and allegedly threatened a security guard before he was shot by two police officers using a taser and a firearm.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Jones said the man was "acting in an erratic manner" and wielded at least two knives.
Police found a note indicating a possible explosive device inside his vehicle, prompting the evacuation of several floors. The bomb squad found no device in their search and the hospital was later reopened.
Hayes said there was a "total lack of communication".
"People were wondering what was going on ... it was a calamity," he said.
Hayes said the security staff involved were "clearly shaken up" while other staff were anxious about returning to work.
"One of their colleagues was shot in the leg two-and-a-half years ago. This is Groundhog Day they don't want to revisit," he said.
"At the moment we're seeing security not being taken seriously. It's not being invested in and we're starting to see it get out of control."
It's an issue that has profoundly affected Dr Michael Wong, a Melbourne brain and spinal surgeon who was in 2014 attacked by a man with a knife as he walked into work at the Western Hospital in Footscray.
Speaking to ten daily in August, he said many hospitals allow people to simply wander off the street and into wards full of the sick and injured.
"That's how it was designed back in the day in England, but that model can't be applied to this day and age. In a ward, they need doors with a swipe card so strangers can't walk in. You have that for your office, so why not in a hospital where sick patients are more vulnerable?" he said.
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Following the latest attack, Wong said hospital security should not be overlooked amid tight health budgets.
"Entrances for hospital staff, restricted access to wards and regular security patrols of public areas are some of the measures needed to prevent repeat attacks," he said.
"An increased security presence in hospitals will deter violence and increase dialogue between hospital staff and administrators."
emergency workers also facing vicious assaults
And it's not just happening in hospitals; paramedics, too, are facing violence as they work.
A recent international study, published in July, found more than one third of paramedics have reported being assaulted while on the job during the past 12 months.
Earlier this year, politicians in Victoria vowed to crack down on such "disgusting attacks" after a paramedic was spat at and punched by a patient he was treating.
In the same month, two women who were found guilty of assaulting another paramedic were freed on bail pending an appeal despite mandatory sentences for assaulting emergency service workers.
calls for 'urgent action'
Hayes called for new powers for security guards to address the issue at hospitals following the 2016 Nepean shooting, but the state government did not address them.
"Having a special constable power is basically the ability to restrain and detain people. At the moment, if security officers detain someone, they have to make a citizens' arrest, which is outrageous," he said.
While Assistant Commissioner Jones would not comment on the proposal, he said such incidents were "concerning".
"It's a concern for the community and the police, that they go to work to do their job and return home. It is a concern that a police officer could have been seriously injured, or of course killed," he said.