“But the worst attacks are people who are high on ice. It can take seven or eight people to restrain them, they get like a superhuman strength and it is really quite scary.”
Health staff who work at Metro South, which includes Princess Alexandra and Logan hospitals are most likely to be attacked, abused and threatened with violence, health department figures show.
About seven incidents of violence are reported from that health service each day, on average.
Brisbane’s other major health service Metro North, which includes the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, recorded 1372 incidents in 2018-19. That works out to be about four incidents of violence each day.
Disturbingly, violence against staff caring for sick children has increased by 153 per cent in the past two years with Children’s Health noting 243 violent incidents last financial year.
Reports of abuse also spiked on the Gold Coast (up 86 per cent), West Moreton (up 61 per cent) and Torres and Cape (up 62 per cent).
A Queensland Health spokeswoman said more staff were reporting abuse, which explains the increase and that actual physical aggression made up about half of all reported occupational violence incidents.
She said the department had implemented “action-based solutions” following recommendations from the Occupational Violence Taskforce Report.
The initiatives included upgrading CCTV cameras at the Princess Alexandra and Logan hospitals and body-worn cameras across the Metro South Hospital and Health Service area.
Queensland president of the Australian Medical Association Dilip Dhupelia agreed the increase in assaults was partly due to more staff reporting, but assaults were still happening.
“Increased security is working, and our members in Brisbane’s two major hospitals have reported that it is much more secure than it used to be,” he said.
“Alcohol is still the most common drug that is fuelling violence in our hospitals but there is no doubt there has been an increase in violence by those affected by methamphetamines.”
Dr Dhupelia said the government should now look at training more more addiction medicine specialists to better help treat drug affected patients who present to emergency departments.
He said at present the state does not have a “sufficient” number of addiction specialists to meet demand.
Staff at Toowoomba Hospital had asked for tighter security the day before a colleague was allegedly assaulted by a patient in a mental health wing in July.
It is understood he had to be revived three times after the alleged attack.
In March, two staff were allegedly stabbed in the knees by a patient at Logan Hospital.
The only health services where attacks and threats have decreased were at Central West, which includes Longreach and Winton hospitals, Darling Downs, North West, which includes Mount Isa, and Wide Bay.
LNP health spokeswoman Ros Bates said the statistics were “deeply shocking”.
“No nurse, doctor or paramedic deserves to go to work and be confronted by physical violence,” she said.
“People must be encouraged to join and stay in the health profession, but this extreme violence doesn’t help the cause.
“Health staff are being treated like punching bags, but Labor has no plan to improve their safety.”
The Queensland Health spokeswoman said “staff who dedicate their lives to helping others should feel safe at work at all times”.
She said a committee made up of doctors, nurses, paramedics and police meet bi-monthly “to oversee the development and implementation of strategies”.
The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union were contacted for comment.
Lydia Lynch is a reporter for the Brisbane Times