TRIALLING the use of capsicum spray, duress alarms and ending the culture of under-reporting patient violence are among key recommendations in a report on hospital security and staff safety.
The Health Services Union (HSU) has welcomed the released of the Anderson Report, calling it long overdue recognition of the violent reality many hospital workers confront.
HSU NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said the release of the Peter Anderson security review comes one month after a horror incident at Port Macquarie Base Hospital left a security assistant a with "a chunk of flesh torn from his torso" when a patient bit him.
The incident occurred on January 9 when a 40-year-old man was taken to Port Macquarie Base Hospital under police guard for the purpose of a mental health assessment.
While receiving treatment, the man allegedly became agitated and assaulted five male hospital staff causing a litany of injuries including concussion, bite wounds, broken ribs, torn cartilage, cuts and bruises.
Mid North Coast Local Health District chief executive Stewart Dowrick said after the incident that the safety of staff, patients and visitors to NSW public hospitals was paramount and there was never an excuse for violence in NSW Health facilities.
A full internal investigation is being undertaken into the incident.
"For the last two decades hospitals have become increasing violent, dangerous places to work," Mr Hayes said in a statement following the release of the report.
"Our members have been kicked, punched, shot, and stabbed.
"Security officers must be empowered to defend themselves and public safety and have the capacity to de-escalate a situation. We will hold NSW Health accountable to implementing this reform package."
My Hayes said hospitals employ a wide range of medical specialists, and should also employ and empower security specialists to protect staff, patients and visitors.
"For too long this problem has been swept under the carpet. It is reassuring to see this report remind everyone that hospital staff have an explicit moral and legal right to safety. And that staff will be supported through the legal process when they make a complaint."
Some of the key recommendations in the report include hospital management ensure the current culture of under-reporting of violence ends; a trial of capsicum foam and other defensive tools to help de-escalate situations; better access to mental health assessments; ensuring duress alarms are worn and used, as well as fixed to the treatment rooms; and ensuring clinical staff inform security staff when they become aware that a patient, who may present a behavioural challenge, is en route to the hospital.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard thanked former Labor Health and Police Minister Peter Anderson for his statewide review and its recommendations to improve safety for staff, patients and visitors to hospitals.
Mr Hazzard described the incident at Port Macquarie's hospital in January as "atrocious".
The review made 107 recommendations, and NSW Health says it will continue to work closely with staff, unions and other government agencies to see these recommendations are "actioned and implemented".