Two Westmead security guards stabbed amid spike in hospital assaults

Sydney Morning Herald, 22 June 2024

Three security guards and a male nurse have allegedly been attacked by a man armed with a knife at a hospital in western Sydney amid a rise in the rate of assaults at the state’s hospitals.

Assaults have spiked sharply at western Sydney hospitals in the past two years, some involving significant injuries to patients and staff, leading to union calls for better security at emergency departments.

Police were called to Westmead Hospital about 11.30pm on Friday following reports that a 39-year-old man allegedly stabbed two security guards, aged 24 and 25. A third male security guard suffered a dislocated shoulder while trying to subdue the man, who is believed to be a patient at the hospital.

A 29-year-old nurse also sustained minor injuries.

The 39-year-old man was charged with five offences. He was held at the hospital under police guard before being arrested and taken to Parramatta Police Station, where he was refused bail to appear before Parramatta Local Court on Sunday.

The nurse and security guards are all in stable condition.

Police will be inquiring if drugs or mental health issues played a part in the man’s motivation for the alleged attack. However, he is “not in a talkative mood”, a police spokesman said.

Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said the senseless violence health workers endure must stop and called for greater security and better personal protective equipment.

“In the last decade we have had shootings, stabbings and flesh torn from the bodies of our members,” Hayes said.

“It is frustrating and mystifying that so many of the recommendations of the Anderson inquiry into hospital security are yet to be implemented.”

Assaults in NSW hospitals have almost doubled over the past decade, increasing from 501 in 2015 to 972 this year. In western Sydney, where hospitals and the population have expanded, assaults have increased at a faster rate than elsewhere.

Health workers and patients have been attacked at several NSW hospitals recently in “senseless and unprovoked” events.
NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said the safety of health workers is “a key priority to me”.

“I am always open to hearing suggested improvements towards making our hospitals safer for staff, patients and visitors,” Park said.

The NSW government has implemented 97 per cent of the recommendations from the Anderson review to improve security in hospitals and is working on getting the remainder done, as well as assessing if any additional strategies are required, a NSW health spokeswoman said.

NSW police urge anyone with information about this case to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.