Three nurses assaulted at Launceston General Hospital overnight

Three staff at the Launceston General Hospital were assaulted on Wednesday night, the Health Department has confirmed.

Fairfax Media understands nine code blacks were called within 24 hours at the LGH this week due to concerns for staff safety.

On Wednesday, a patient assaulted three staff at the LGH, with one staff member sustaining “substantial” facial injuries, according to the nurses’ union.

A code black is called when additional assistance is urgently needed to respond to threats to personal safety.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Emily Shepherd said one union member had described the LGH emergency department to her as being “like a crisis zone” at the moment.

“[Staff] are having to deal with this on a daily basis and there’s no reprieve in sight, really,” Ms Shepherd said.

Health Department secretary Michael Pervan said the department would be reviewing the separate incidents “to ensure we are doing all we can to support our staff and ensure they are safe”.

The escalations come in the wake of the release of state government figures for the financial year to March 31, 2018, revealing that the longest a mental health patient had to wait in the ED at the LGH was almost four days.

Furthermore, on Wednesday, the Australiasian College of Emergency Medicine stated that Tasmanians were among the most at risk in the country of experiencing long wait times in emergency departments.

The ACEM said Tasmania’s emergency departments, along with South Australia’s and the Australian Capital Territory’s, had “deteriorating conditions and unacceptable levels of access block and overcrowding”.

The recent code blacks also follow The Examiner’s report that an 11-year-old boy with acute mental ill-health had recently spent nearly two-and-a-half days waiting in the emergency department at the LGH.

Ms Shepherd said the morale of LGH staff was “just so low” at the moment.

“There’s just been no action taken,” she said.

LGH staff are currently involved in industrial action and Ms Shepherd said they would be considering escalating that action soon as a result of supposedly worsening conditions at the hospital.

Ms Shepherd said there were a raft of potential solutions to the problems at the LGH, but seemingly none were being considered.

She said the 29 beds in ward 4D needed to be fully funded and staffed, the four additional beds in the children and adolescents’ ward 4K needed to be opened and additional beds in the intensive care unit needed also to be opened.

Moreover, Ms Shepherd said an additional triage nurse needed to be employed in the ED, as well as an increased security presence.

Mr Pervan said the Tasmanian Health Service had “zero tolerance” for violence towards staff.

“I commend the staff involved for how the situation was handled and their absolute professionalism during what were no doubt challenging situations,” he said.

“All three staff members have returned to work with the appropriate supports.”

Acting Health Minister Elise Archer echoed Mr Pervan’s comments, saying any threat or injury to staff in the state’s hospital system was “unacceptable” and would “not be tolerated”.

“We thank our hard-working staff for the incredible work they do, including their unwavering professionalism in providing care for their patients,” Ms Archer said.

During the 2018 state election campaign, the Liberals promised to put an additional $757 million into the overall health budget over six years, including the employment of 802 nurses, 158 doctors, and 128 allied health professionals. 

The money will also see 298 extra beds opened, of which 40 will be allocated to the LGH and eight to the North West Regional Hospital.