NURSING staff are in 'disbelief' over the planned axing of a night security position at Lismore Base Hospital, saying it will put staff and patients at higher risk.
The hospitsal currently has three night security staff. Its 46-bed mental health facility and busy emergency department each have one security guard. The remaining 'general' position is to be cut in a six month trial starting next month.
Richmond Clarence Health Service Group acting executive director Wayne Jones said the proposed 'reorganisation' of night security staffing was based on benchmarking with other North Coast hospitals.
"Experience has shown that the remainder of LBH is quiet at night... the other areas within LBH would be covered by two Health and Security Assistants (wardsmen)," said Mr Jones.
"On exceptional nights... LBH would be able to call in a 'static guard' from its security contractor, SNP."
But NSW Nurses Association branch secretary Gil Wilson said wardsmen were already multi-tasking, often assisting nurses with direct patient care and relocating patients from the Emergency Department so ambulances could be cleared.
"The staff are in disbelief," Mr Wilson said.
We feel it puts us at higher risk.
At least five people are required to attend a typical 'duress call' to restrain an individual, including properly trained medical staff, the security guard, and a wardsman.
The cut means wardsmen and cleaners will be forced to take over the restraint role in duress situations with a risk that there may not be enough people to respond.
"What happens if the wardsman is off taking an urgent life-saving blood supply to the operating theatre? He can't drop the blood and attend the duress call," Mr Wilson said.
"The one time we need that person could have grave consequences."
Health Services Union North Coast organiser Ken McIntosh said the planned cuts were 'wholly and solely a cost-saving measure' destined to fail, as higher overtime costs and last-minute outsourcing from SNP during peak demand would end up costing more.
"Lismore Base Hospital requires full-time security officers around the clock - beyond an ad hoc arrangement of a cleaner or wardsman providing security as well," said Mr McIntosh.
"Nine times out of ten... the wardsman will be busy transporting a patient and cannot attend to the duress or security issue at hand."