Aggression towards western Sydney’s frontline health heroes is never okay

WSLHD staff working to keeping staff safe – Alejandro Bugedo and Daniel Carbone from Work Health & Safety, Jason Carr – Manager violence prevention program and Steven Westbrook Sr, Emily Meharg, Anthony Robson also from Work Health & Safety.

All across the world, frontline health heroes face a high risk of violence and aggression – and western Sydney is no different.

Regrettably health workers sometimes do not report acts of aggression because of a belief it is ‘just part of the job’ or ‘it’s not the patient’s fault because they are sick’ or because ‘nothing will be done about It’.

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) is determined to change this attitude of acceptance and prevent violence towards its health heroes.

We understand that people can lash out when they are unwell or anxious about their loved one’s medical condition, but that does not mean that staff cannot do anything about poor behaviour towards them.

There is no circumstance where violent and aggressive behaviour is acceptable. Every person has the right to work in a safe workplace,” said Jason Carr, WSLHD’s Violence Prevention Program (VPP) manager.

Under Jason’s leadership the VPP supports staff if they have been exposed to violence or aggression. The team works across the district in collaboration with clinical teams, patients and loved ones to ensure that the workplace is safe for staff. The VPP supplements the other protocols that the District has in place to manage safety and the immediate risk of a violent situation.

WSLHD’s Work Health and Safety team work closely with Jason Carr (centre) from the violence prevention program to support staff.

David Lazaro, Acting Nurse Unit Manager at Blacktown Hospital was involved in an incident with a patient that required the support of the Violence Prevention team.

“It was very reassuring knowing the organisation was behind us. From checking on our welfare to helping us create a management plan, we were confident that action was being taken,” said David.

“We help staff navigate the process and ensure they get the help they need. We will always support their preferred course of action, for example if they want to involve the Police,” said Jason.

Staff are encouraged to report any behaviour that makes them feel unsafe. This behaviour isn’t just physical it can be verbal, of a sexual nature and even over social media.

WSLHD provides training, education and access to counselling and additional support for staff who experience violence or aggression.

WSLHD’s VPP offers a range of responses to violence and aggression. These responses can range from working with staff to risk assess and develop action plans to reinforce acceptable behaviours with patients and visitors through to banning people from facilities unless they need medical treatment.

“A key part of the program is contacting people who have been violent or aggressive to have a dialogue and understand why they have behaved as they have. They need to understand our zero tolerance policy and what that may mean for their future access of our facilities,” explained Jason.

The program aims to prevent the reoccurrence of situations through assessment, action, ongoing review and surveillance.

WSLHD also provides training, education and access to counselling and additional support for staff who experience violence or aggression.

“I want all staff to know they have the full support of the organisation and it’s okay to report incidents. Even if the person is unwell or anxious, there are actions that can be taken in an understanding and respectful way. Equally firmer actions can be taken if that is needed. The safety of our staff and patients is our priority.” said Jason.

To learn more WSLHD staff are encouraged to complete the ‘Creating a Safe Workplace Training’ via My Health Learning.