Clarence Hospital staff safety fears as 'ice rage' rises

THE Health Services Union has blasted local hospitals claiming they lack security and protection for clinical staff to combat the rising ice epidemic.

The union says people suffering from methamphetamine-induced psychosis, or what is more commonly being referred to as 'ice rage', are presenting more often at hospitals across the Northern Rivers region.

These patients can pose a safety risk for clinical staff, with the HSU saying several doctors in the region were already on workers' compensation due to injuries sustained from 'ice rage'.

Northern NSW organiser for the HSU, Jonathan Milman, said a lack of security personnel at both Grafton Base Hospital and Maclean District Hospital is a danger for clinical staff.

"These are the only hospitals I am aware of in the Mid-North Coast that have no hospital security personnel on staff," he said.

"They may have third party contractors but these people are not trained to deal with hospital patients or patients suffering from mental illness.

"The issue for me is there isn't staff on the ground, and what they need is staff on the ground."

Executive officer of the hospitals Dan Madden said both hospitals had sound security as evidenced by their results in the annual audits.

"Both hospitals have well-established Duress Response procedures so that staff can summon assistance in the event of an aggressive incident," he said. "All front-line staff undertake specific training in de-escalation and aggression minimisation techniques.

"Security contactors at both hospitals provide on-site surveillance and patrols, as well as responding to duress alarms or provide an additional guard to monitor a known offender."

Mr Madden also said he was unaware of any previous incidents that involved ice rage at either hospital but Mr Milman said it was only a matter of time.

"Only last month we had a doctor assaulted in a Lismore hospital and this crisis is spreading and it will soon spread to the Clarence Valley as well," he said.

"It is not reduced to one segment of the community either. People in their early teens all the way to people in their late fifties can all be affected by 'ice rage'.

"It is a national crisis, but it is those regional communities who are being affected the worst."

But according to the union it is not only clinical staff, but also patients who will be affected by 'ice rage'.

"These staff members cannot perform their jobs if they are running for their lives or their patients' lives in these situations," Mr Milman said. "The union will be pushing to have permanent medical security staff at both hospitals in the future."

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