Hospital security guards hamstrung by inadequate laws: Union

Daily Telegraph, 9 July 2022

Security guards say they are still being treated like punching bags and can’t proactively take down aggressive patients because recommended new laws have not been passed.

Hospital security guards say they still can’t proactiv­ely take down aggressive ­patients because crucial new laws have not been passed.

More than two years after increased safety standards were recommended in a landmark report commissioned by Health Minister Brad Hazzard, security guards claim they remain powerless to protect themselves, health staff and the public.

NSW Opposition health spokesman Ryan Park has blasted the government for not ushering in the changes, which he said had left hospital security guards to be treated “like punching bags”. Recommendations allowing security staff to use capsicum foam and batons also remain on ice.

“There’s no legislation that specifically enhances the powers of security officers within a hospital setting and allows them to proactively take a person down and constrain a person before it gets out of control,” Mr Park said.

“They don’t go to work to be punching bags for ­people who are simply, in many cases, out of control, intoxicated or under the ­influence of drugs.”

The final report by former police minister Peter Anderson was released in February 2021 and included recommendations to trial capsicum foam and “control sticks”.

An interim report released in February 2019 recommended legislative changes effectively allowing security guards to take someone down without the prior ­approval of a nurse or doctor.

Moruya Hospital health and security assistant James Gorst said guards and the public needed more protection.

A Health Services Union member, Mr Gorst said security staff remained in a “grey area” where rules meant they had to wait for themselves or other staff to be attacked before they could take someone down.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy towards violence but we get overruled,” he said.

“In regional areas especially, we are not given the time for drills and ongoing training, including in violence prevention management.”

HSU secretary Gerard Hayes said problems had been exacerbated by staff shortages and long wait times, adding “it’s only a matter of time before ­another critical incident”.

Mr Hayes said he had met with NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb, Mr Hazzard and the former secretary of NSW Health five months ago about the issue, “but since then nothing has happened”.

When The Saturday Telegraph posed questions to Mr Hazzard, we received a res­ponse from NSW Health.

A spokesman said: “Mr Anderson’s final report contained 107 recommendations and a significant amount of work has been done across NSW Health to address the recommendations, with about two-thirds (64 per cent) of recommendations implemented.

“As part of the 2021-22 Budget, the NSW government committed $69.7 million over four years to fund vital programs to improve ­security in NSW hospitals.”

Mr Anderson did not ­respond to requests for comment.

Last year he told 2GB: “The problem we have with our security officers is that they are given a pair of gloves and a pair of glasses.

“Now that’s terrific, ­except if you’ve got a 100kg chap coming at you full of ice and carrying a knife.”