Ice epidemic putting frontline health workers at risk

TWEED'S frontline workers have been hit hard by the nation's meth epidemic.

The Tweed hospital emergency department has seen a rise in meth-related cases, with one nurse recently kicked by a psychosis patient.

While Tweed's police said at least once a week an officer is assaulted by a drug-induced suspect.

The revelations come as a Tweed church has called for community support to open more ice rehab centres and Prime Minister Tony Abbott's announcement of a taskforce against ice.

Director for emergency Dr Robert Davies welcomed the taskforce because there had "been a definite rise in disturbed drug-affected patients".

"Meth-affected patients are noisy, violent and disruptive and take a lot of resource to manage," Dr Davies said.

"In general these patients are brought in by police. We have a safe room for receiving them.

"That can be occupied and we will need to move other patients about or use another room."

Dr Davies said staff work tirelessly stop these patients from affecting others' care and that recently a meth-affected user kicked a nurse.

"We try to minimalize this as much as possible but it is a fact that it occurs," he said.

Tweed / Byron Local Area Command crime manager Brendon Cullen said officers have increasingly had to deal with attacks from meth-affected suspects.

"We go to mental health call-outs, where people require medical attention, but ambulances aren't able to convey those people," Det Ins Cullen said.

"They are suffering psychosis and often it's related to the ingestion of ice," he said.

"The effect of psychosis is there is a propensity for violence, irrational behaviour and crime, and we often we find ourselves at the other end of it all."

"The message for young people is that it ruins lives and kills people," he said.

Last year the Tweed Daily News reported the health ministry's Tweed Drug Service had seen a 20% increase in ice addiction, with patients as young as 16.

At the time, Vibe Church in South Tweed was looking for a home for a live-in rehabilitation program to cope with demand.

Pastor David Nahi said the first Transformations house had now been set up and within months had "amazing results".

Ten men are enrolled in the 12-month program, and a waiting list has been established. A second men's home for 12, and two women's houses, is needed.

Based on current demand, more than 70% of clients are meth addicted.

At the end of the program clients would have completed a TAFE course, work experience, community service and be "fully functioning members of society".

"There's going to be more demand, for more that just one house in the Tweed area," Pastor Nahi said.

"But we need more local community support."

More about Transformations: http://vibe.church/ or call 0755367575.



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