Violence or threats of violence to staff and patients at the Launceston General Hospital are occurring at higher rates than previously, according to government figures, that show 842 code blacks called in the last three years.
Hospital staff call code blacks when acts of violence or aggression are viewed as a threat to personal safety and require assistance.
Right to Information figures show 315 code blacks were called at the LGH in 2017, and by September this year 302 code blacks had been called.
Health officials attribute the rise to a change in hospital policy, where staff are now being trained to call code blacks earlier than they would have previously.
ANMF Tasmania branch secretary Emily Shepard said such training has not been rolled out to all staff in the health system.
“It is probably a little bit ‘rose coloured glasses’ to say this training has resulted in increased code blacks. I think it is more patient demographic,” she said.
“What we are now seeing, particularly with an ageing population, is more patients with delirium, who are based in our general medical surgical wards, potentially increasing the need for code blacks.”
Health and Community Services Union assistant secretary Robbie Moore said the code black rise was not connected to procedural change.
“Members are saying code blacks have increased due to the increasing numbers of patients presenting at the hospital ... all facets of the health system are seeing increased demand, and some of those cases are more likely to end up in code black situations.”
Mr Moore said increasing code blacks at Northside - 47 called in 2017 and 93 called in the first eight months of 2018 - could be explained by a no-search policy.
“Staff are not allowed to search people when they are admitted into the ward, and that is causing a major safety risk, where patients admitted on the ward have been found to have weapons,” he said.
Tasmanian Health Service chief officer Suzanne McCavanagh said staff are being trained to call code blacks earlier as a precautionary and preventative measure.
“Part of this involves an increased and better coordinated approach to training with respect to de-escalation and code black protocols where staff may feel that their personal safety is under threat,” she said.
“Earlier intervention in an aggressive event can result in an increase in code blacks being called and improves patient and staff safety. Increases in code blacks do not necessarily correlate with an increase in violent or aggressive events.”
She said all staff would receive de-escalation training via the new occupational and violence aggression unit.