National | Emergency Services

Violent incidents prompts security boost at hospital emergency departments

To address the escalating levels of violence in emergency departments during the upcoming summer months, Health Minister Dr. Shane Reti has disclosed a $5.7 million initiative to deploy an additional 200 security personnel across 32 hospitals in New Zealand until late February.

“Our government has listened to ED staff about the increased frequency of violent incidents in hospitals,” Health Minister Shane Reti says.

“That’s why we’ve committed to these additional workers to help keep patients – and our hard-working doctors, nurses and other ED staff – safe during a particularly busy time.”

The targeted approach involves assigning five extra security staff to each of the eight highest-risk emergency departments, located in the four Auckland hospitals, as well as in Waikato, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, until the end of February.

Dr. Reti emphasized the unacceptability of violence or aggression towards dedicated staff working under often stressful circumstances.

“There‘s no place for people being abusive or aggressive towards staff, who are doing their absolute best for their fellow New Zealanders in often stressful situations,” says Reti.

24 emergency departments situated near popular summer destinations will receive between two and five additional security staff, offering support throughout the summer holiday peak until mid-January or late February, depending on local requirements.

In light of these security measures, Dr. Reti highlighted the government’s commitment to enhancing safety by prioritizing frontline health support over back-office functions. The move aligns with National’s 100-day plan, which includes various health policies such as setting major targets for the health system, addressing surgical waitlists, expediting cancer treatment, and improving emergency department wait times.

The announcement follows a call from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) before the election, urging round-the-clock security presence in every emergency department to tackle the perceived “national crisis” affecting staff safety, leading to a medical workforce exodus and jeopardizing patient well-being.

Dr. Reti had previously assured action on this issue before Christmas. Data from Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand revealed 7125 assaults against public health employees between April 2021 and April 2023, with emergency departments experiencing the highest rates of violence and aggression. Additionally, as part of the government’s broader health initiatives, a $50 million boost was recently announced to enhance Whānau Ora and partner efforts in increasing vaccination rates.