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Hospital assaults leave mental health workers with broken ribs and concussion

Requests for security guards at a Christchurch mental health facility have been ignored, despite two “significant” assaults in recent weeks.

The incidents, which occurred at the Te Whare Manaaki specialist mental health forensic facility at Hillmorton Hospital on June 3 and May 19, were confirmed by the chief executive of specialist mental health services at the Canterbury Board of Health, Greg Hamilton.

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Things understands the assault victims were nurses at the facility and suffered injuries including a concussion and broken ribs.

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“These two staff members were cared for at the time, monitored and supported with appropriate plans to help them recover (we are not providing further details to protect the privacy of individuals),” Hamilton said. .

Forensic services provide care to people who, due to mental illness, have committed serious criminal offenses or are considered to be at high risk of such offences.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, a union representing specialists, including psychiatrists, said the assaults were not limited to nurses or forensic services.

The union last week called for a temporary increase in the number of security guards until major staffing shortages can be resolved, executive director Sarah Dalton said.

By Wednesday, they had received no response.

The impact of assaults on mental health staff can be very debilitating, and boards of health must take it seriously, says the Association of Salaried Specialist Physicians.

Abigail Dougherty / Stuff

The impact of assaults on mental health staff can be very debilitating, and boards of health must take it seriously, says the Association of Salaried Specialist Physicians.

Hamilton said the use of security personnel was not “the preferred strategy to support de-escalation, but can be used on occasion to support staff”.

No security personnel were permanently stationed at Te Whare Manaaki, but security personnel “are available” at the Hillmorton campus, he said.

“There were security personnel stationed at Te Whare Manaaki, agreed with the personnel, after the June 3 assault, but this has been reduced.”

He declined to provide further information on security arrangements “to protect the safety of our consumers and staff”.

The assaults alarmed staff, who demanded an urgent meeting with management, Things understand.

Hamilton said staff received training to reduce the risk and possibility of assaults.

“While no level of violence is acceptable in a workplace, some consumers, particularly when feeling unwell, can be unpredictable, which can result in assaults on other consumers or staff. “

Dalton said the union agreed it was not therapeutically ideal to have more security personnel.

“However, given the significant shortage of mental health staff and violent attacks on staff, we are not ready to step back and watch the employer refuse to mitigate known risks. “

Sarah Dalton, executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, said the union had asked for additional security guards at Hillmorton Hospital until staff shortages were resolved.

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Sarah Dalton, executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, said the union had asked for additional security guards at Hillmorton Hospital until staff shortages were resolved.

The long and short term effects of an assault could be significant and debilitating, and should be taken seriously by the Canterbury Board of Health, Dalton said.

“Even if the physical injuries don’t linger, it’s the anxiety it causes you, to return to the workplace, to know that the people who assaulted you are still there, sick and without safe personnel.”

In February, there were 50 vacancies at Hillmorton Hospital, including 30 nursing, 4 medical and 16 paramedical.

High staff turnover in the forensic unit has led to bed closures, Hamilton said in March.

“There are 192 beds in specialist mental health services with 172 beds currently being resourced, as we have temporarily capped the number of beds in our forensic unit due to staffing shortages and Omicron’s response. »

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