People who assault nurses, doctors and paramedics will face up to 14 years in prison under tough new laws introduced as part of the Queensland Government’s Safe Night Out Strategy.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said thousands of health workers were punched, stabbed, bitten and spat on every year in Queensland while serving the public in their daily duties.
“Assaults, whether they are physical or verbal, on our health workers will not be tolerated and the Queensland Government is appalled that even one nurse, doctor or paramedic is attacked. It is inexcusable and shameful behaviour,” he said.
“It is a startling reality that more than 24,500 health care employees reported being a victim of a violent incident at work in the past five financial years. More than 4,400 health workers in the last financial year alone were victims of violence in their workplace.
“As part of the Safe Night Out Strategy to stamp out violence, if you commit an aggravated serious assault on a nurse, doctor, paramedic – or any health professional – you could be hit with up to 14 years’ imprisonment.
“If you think it is okay to assault our health workers, we’ll give you up to 14 years to think again. It is simply not acceptable and that is why we have doubled the penalty.”
In 2013-14, 2,817 nurses suffered violence in the workplace, or 8.51 per cent, from a total Queensland nursing work force of more than 33,000. That compares to 3,016 nurses attacked or threatened in 2010-2011, or 9.3 per cent of the then workforce of more than 32,000.
“It has improved but any assault is unacceptable,’ Mr Springborg said.
Data shows that many of the violent attacks against health care workers were fuelled by alcohol and drugs.
The State Government has committed $44.5 million towards the Safe Night Out Strategy including education, stronger penalties, targeted policing, better prevention and safe environments.
“‘The Safe Night Out for health workers’ campaign launched today aims to prevent violence against health frontline employees who are just doing their job, and raise awareness of the increased penalty,” Mr Springborg said.
“The campaign features some graphic images of injuries to nurses, doctors and paramedics. It will largely be an online campaign and there will also be strategically placed posters in licensed venues across Queensland.”
To help safeguard frontline healthcare employees, Queensland Health has risk management processes in place and offers a range of occupational training to address aggressive and challenging behaviours.
Training can include early detection and prevention of violence, de-escalation techniques, methods to avoid or escape the situation and, if unavoidable, physical restraint techniques.