Marny Thomas, North Coast representative of the NSW Nurses? Association, is disturbed at the rising level of violence being dir
Marny Thomas, North Coast representative of the NSW Nurses? Association, is disturbed at the rising level of violence being dir

UNION FEARS OUR NURSES ARE ?SITTING DUCKS

By JANE GARDNER

A NSW union will investigate the personal safety of nurses at smaller Northern Rivers hospitals following an increase in attacks and threats from drug-affected or mentally ill patients.

The decision follows a win by Byron Bay nurses to get 24-hour security after the North Coast Area Health Service withdrew their afternoon security officer, citing funding shortages, in January.

Over the past few years an influx of violent, mentally ill and alcohol or drug-affected patients has reached a dangerous point and nurses at Byron District Hospital alerted the union to the increasing problems.

NSW Nurses' Association North Coast representative Marny Thomas believes Northern Rivers health workers are {lsquo}sitting ducks'

She says a notorious incident at Kempsey Hospital in 2001 ? where a patient was murdered by a mentally ill man ? may well happen here if security measures are not improved.

In particular, staff at the Mullumbimby and District War Memorial Hospital and Maclean District Hospital are at greatest risk, Ms Thomas says.

"At any small, regional hospital there is always a danger of having walk-in patients who are affected by drugs such as Ice going completely psychotic," she said.

"We have only just become aware of these problems on the Northern Rivers, and I expect I will be conducting tours with an Occupational Health and Safety officer in the next two weeks."

The NCAHS, however, is adamant that hospital security across the district is adequate. A spokesman would not comment



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