A "bloody, violent attack" by a patient at a regional NSW hospital has left workers with "flesh torn from (their) body", bite wounds, concussion, broken ribs, torn cartilage and other injuries, the health workers' union says.
Five staff were hurt in the incident at Port Macquarie Base Hospital at 4am on Saturday morning, which NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has described as "atrocious".
The man had been brought to the hospital's emergency department in handcuffs by police and was under the supervision of one health and security assistant.
He had already absconded earlier in the morning and was placed in the emergency department's mental health room after police brought him back.
Five more assistants were called to restrain the patient when he became aggressive and tried to leave.
They were injured in a violent struggle.
One worker has five broken ribs and torn cartilage, and one has concussion after being slammed to the ground.
Another has deep bite wounds on his shoulder, another has has cuts and bruises, and the fifth is being assessed for a broken arm, the Health Services Union (HSU) says.
HSU NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes says it was a miracle nobody was killed.
"One of our members has literally had flesh torn from his body. Another had his head slammed to the ground. This horrific, unforgettable act of violence will deeply affect everyone injured and also those who witnessed it," Mr Hayes said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Mr Hazzard told AAP the minister was "appalled" by the attack.
The spokesperson said the minister shared the HSU's concerns and had requested a full investigation.
"To have health and security staff attacked when they are doing their job of looking after patients and the community is nothing short of atrocious," the spokesperson said.
"If it is found the safety protocols need to be changed, they will be."
Security staff stopped work on Wednesday morning to discuss the issue and call for an urgent review of the protocols for transferring patients from police custody to hospitals.
Violence in hospitals happens "virtually on a daily basis, definitely on a weekly basis" throughout the country, Mr Hayes said.
His first thought when he heard about the incident was "oh no, here we go again".
"It's just awful, it's nearly in their job description that you've got to be belted every now and then."
Mr Hayes sheeted blame to NSW Health, saying it was not the role of police to ensure the safety of staff, patients and visitors at hospitals.
"Unless there is a serious commitment from the Ministry of Health and the local health districts to deal with security and safety within hospitals proactively by enhancing resourcing, training and qualifications, we're just going keep seeing this stuff and it's going to get worse," he said.
"I'm just so sick of having this discussion."
The HSU is renewing its calls for security staff numbers to be increased by the hundreds at hospitals.
Hospital security staff should also be able to restrain and detain violent patients without a doctor's direction, the HSU says.
Mr Hayes will meet with the health ministry and the chief executive of the mid north coast local health district to discuss the issue in the coming days.
Mr Hazzard's spokesperson said it was important that the alleged offender is held to account, and that he would hopefully receive a penalty that reflects the injuries sustained.
Australian Associated Press