Body armour vests, which are already worn by police, will be purchased by the WA Government to protect doctors and nurses. (Reuters: David Gray)
Doctors, nurses and security guards at West Australian hospitals could soon be wearing body armour to protect them from increasingly violent and aggressive patients and visitors.
- 11,304 incidents of aggression were reported at WA tertiary hospitals last year
- Documents show the vests need to protect staff from bullets, blades and spikes
- The first purchase could be made before June 2019
The Health Department has put a tender for the custom manufacture of up to 250 body armour vests, saying the protective clothing was necessary “to improve the safety of workers at risk of injury from increasing levels of violence and aggression”.
The Government said it hoped to purchase the first batch of vests before June 2019, and said the order may be expanded in the future.
The document states the armour would need to protect hospital and security staff from bullets, blades and spikes.
Number of assaults against hospital staff
|Tertiary hospital||Incidents of aggression, 2017|
|Fiona Stanley Hospital||3,479|
|Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital||3,587|
|King Edward Memorial Hospital||236|
|Royal Perth Hospital||4,002|
It also states that the vests must:
“Offer protection from multiple threats, including ballistic projectiles and will incorporate a high level of stab and slash protection from common sharp objects, including steak knives, screw drivers and other pointed and serrated objects.”
They would also need to have pouches for the attachment of capsicum spray, as well as body worn cameras.
There were 11,304 reported incidents of aggression at Perth tertiary hospitals in 2017.
The highest number, just over 4,000, was at Royal Perth Hospital.
King Edward Memorial, a hospital for women and newborns, reported 236 incidents of aggression.
Earlier this year the Victorian Government also provided stab-proof vests for hospitals, though it is understood these were for security staff.
Health Minister Roger Cook said the anti-stab vests would be provided to security staff, while other “at-risk” public health workers would be provided with mobile duress alarms.
The alarms would also be used by staff conducting home visits and at remote nursing posts.
“Anti-stab vests will cover vital organs and reduce the risk of sharps injuries from syringes and knives from aggressive patients and are intended for use by security staff,” Mr Cook said.
Vests for doctors a ‘waste of money’
Australian Medical Association WA (AMAWA) emergency spokesman David Mountain said the plan was a waste of money, and a marker of “inept governance”.
“It’s just a knee-jerk, feel-good response,” Dr Mountain said.
“That money would be much better spent actually trying to make some solutions for our chronically overcrowded emergency departments and mental health system.”
He said aggression towards medical staff was a “major crisis”, but this was not the solution.
“We are talking extremely violent patients who are completely out of control,” he said.
“Multiple people have had to go off sick, multiple people who have had quite severe injuries so it is a very difficult enviroment.”
AMAWA Emergency spokesman David Mountain said the proposal was a marker of “inept governance” (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)
Dr Mountain said the answer was more beds and drug and alcohol services.
“Don’t keep people in departments 10 times longer than they need to be because that is increasing the risk 10 times more. They are there for no good reason, they are not getting treatment, they are not getting better.”
A spokesperson for St John Ambulance said the service was not considering body armour for paramedics.
There were more than 11,000 reported incidents of aggression at WA hospitals in 2017. (ABC News: Robert Koenig-Luck)