The alarming reason we’re all at risk in Australian hospitals

A couple of years ago, I had to visit the emergency room on a weekday evening. It was busy, as it

A couple of years ago, I had to visit the emergency room on a weekday evening. It was busy, as it always is, the nurses were doing the best they could to get through the injuries, conditions and regulars.

But then a clearly drunk woman staggered in and started demanding a hospital bed. She has cirrhosis of the liver and needed to be put in hospital, as she announced many times. The triage nurses handled her extremely well and I remember thinking they had been trained well in how to deal with this kind of situation. The security guard kept watch over her until she reached her third warning and was ordered out of the hospital… So they called the police.

By this stage I was through and being treated so I asked why the security guard didn’t just boot her out and let the nurses get on with their work. “He can’t,” the nurse told me. “Only the police can move her along.”

How lucky we were that the woman was “just” a hopeless drunk. Imagine if she had been on something more dangerous.

I was reminded of this incident after the shooting of a police officer and a security guard at Nepean Hospital on Tuesday night. Hospital security guards need more power – for the safety of everyone, staff and patients included.

The Health Services Union has been apparently been saying this for years, reports Medical Observer.

NSW branch secretary Gerard Hayes has called for an urgent meeting with NSW Health Minister.

“We have been calling for more powers for hospital security officers for several years but the government has refused to do anything more than instruct our members to call the police in the event of problems at hospitals,” Mr Hayes says.

Security incidents at NSW public hospitals have reached an alarming level, with security officers frequently assaulted as they attempt to handle violent patients and visitors, he says.

AMA (NSW) president Associate Professor Saxon Smith agrees, “Doctors, nurses, paramedics and other hospital staff often come into contact with threatening situations in the course of doing our jobs,” he says, adding that GPs, paramedics and other health workers are not immune from the dangers.

If hospital staff don’t feel safe, how can we as patients?

Would you like to see tougher security and more power given to guards in hospitals? Have you ever felt unsafe at hospital?


  1. For sure, they not only have to deal with drunks and people who are mentally ill, they also have to deal with out of control Ice addicts and eventually someone, be it hospital staff or patient will get seriously hurt and maybe even die

    • A few years ago when I was in hospital there was a female drug addict locked in a room near me who was very vocal, it was quite frightening. and violentHospital staff have a very hard and dangerous job at times.

  2. is the answer more medical personnel or more police??? Nurses are already stretched to the limit, and face more and more requirements to substantiate their jobs, working smarter not harder, when a few more staff on would save people waiting hours for treatment, and so flare ups would be less common. udually anger comes from not having needs met…

  3. What is the point of having security guards if they can’t eject or forcibly restrain violent patients and visitors? Doesn’t make sense to me.

  4. Interesting to see a photo of my local hospital here. This town has one of the highest drug problems in Australia. I hate to think what the medical staff have to deal with here.

  5. Absolutely,they have to equip security guards to defend themselves. This Ice menace pits them against highly dangerous aggressive people,who are off their face and have animal strength! They need at least two guards together. I was even thinking they need to have the use of a Tazer. I know it seems extreme,but how can you restrain someone like this.The answer to it all of course is to stop the flow of ICE! Sadly that’s not going to happen anytime soon,so,it’s a priority,we must protect our hospitals and staff and patients,and I’m so sorry for the brave policeman and guard who bore the brunt of this attack.

  6. Barbara James  

    Two years ago I was at Nepean Hospital with my grandson who was taken straight into the emergency area. While there two young men were brought in with drug overdoses and as they were coming around they were both extremely violent and had to be subdued by security and police. This was very scary for my 10 year old grandson who was in the bed next to them but the way the whole situation was handled was excellent and the reassurance to my grandson by staff above and beyond their call of duty. Staff in hospitals put up with so much and are not appreciated for the job they do.

  7. They need to have a separate area for mentally ill patients. Those people do not have the patience to wait and cannot be reasoned with. I’ve been saying that for years. You could also lump in the druggies in that area too. Then they could be more efficiently managed by security.

  8. Angie B  

    Yesterday’s shootings at Nepean Hospital were shocking. Police and hospital staff are sitting ducks when it comes to drunks and druggies. I have no solution, but endless praise for those in the firing line who do a marvellous job. I am hoping that the police officer seriously injured yesterday will recover.

  9. Vic Roby  

    I don’t necessarily agree with more powers for security staff, but I feel that there should be tougher penalties, tough handling of those that do NOT need to clutter up the emergency departments and zero tolerance of those that feel society owes them something by demanding attention NOW instead of waiting their turn.

    • Neney Bean  

      Vic Roby………… Mmmm. Having worked in many hospitals before the days of methamphetamine (ICE). …. In A & E, and Psychiatric hospitals and private clinics, I have been physically injured, threatened with rape, had a 20cm knife held at me and have had to ‘man’handle a man with a tomahawk about to attack a toddler in a pram. Security staff need to be there .Glad I am old & retired now.

  10. Glenys C  

    Most definitely. With current violent aggression due to drug use everyone can be in serious danger in these situations.

  11. lurch  

    I have often wondered what would happen if a patient with violent history tore a strip off one of our polies in a hospital waiting room, and then he was told “we can only call the police so do you mind waiting until they get here”.
    A couple of years back I had the misfortune to be on a bed in a treatment room when they carried in a spaced out junkie who had fallen over and hurt his knee. To listen to him you would have thought he was the only patient in the hospital and he need their instant attention as he screamed out for “more pain medication”. Later that night he threw a tantrum (think he was over dew for his next fix) and then he floored one of the staff that was trying to treat his knee. (the junior doctor was out for the count) The hospital was in a bind he needed his next fix but he also needed medical attention for his cut knee. I know what my choice would have been but the hospital has a care of duty, even to drunks and druggies.

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