VIOLENCE associated with charged-up ice users has seriously impacted staff at emergency departments around the state.
And the Wonthaggi Hospital’s ED has not been immune.
So even before the State Government made its announcement last week that it would commence training “for almost 40,000 frontline workers in how to respond safely and effectively to people who are affected by ice”, Bass Coast Health was on to it.
Last week they continued to provide their own training programs and through a partnership between Latrobe Regional Hospitals, Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and BCH; they aim to head troublemakers off at the pass.
They will also, according the health service CEO Jan Child, participate in the State Government’s new training program.
“We’ve had more presentations coming to our emergency department (ED) than we’ve had in the past, creating issues for us with ice and mental health presentations. It’s been a big problem for us.
“The increase in patients has resulted in a greater incidence of violence when some of these patients go off.
“In response we’ve been working with all players; in mental health, Ambulance Victoria and the police, trying to come up with a solution.
“The idea is to reduce the number of people who need to come to our ED for this sort of treatment.
“We want to clear the mental health patients straight through to LRH, for Ambulance Victoria not to come here at all but to take them straight to LRH where they are set up for it.
“We don’t want them interfering with our general ED patients,” she said.
“There are few ways to do that and LRH is seeking more funding to have mental health assessment conducted in the community, so when required they can go straight there.
“I understand that funding has been approved and there will be an announcement in a few weeks.
“That will help reduce the incidence of people needing that support coming to our ED.”
Ms Child said police and a mental health clinician would deal with those issues on site, whether that be in the police cells or the divvy van. The issue with that, of course, is that there’s a shortage of those sorts of health professionals in the area.
Ms Child said additional positions would need to be funded but that the changes were already having an impact for the better at Wonthaggi ED.
“We’re not set up to deal with the aggression associated with ice and with some mental health issues and, in fact, we’ve adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to violence.
“Immediately there’s an incident, treatment stops and the police are called.”
Ice aggression training
Mrs Child also welcomed the new State Government commitment to training “front-line” emergency services personnel and health professionals.
Over the next four years training tailored to each workforce will be rolled out to nurses, paramedics, emergency services workers, human services workers, teachers and pharmacy employees across Victoria.
Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley last week joined nurses who are taking part in the first training session, organised by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.
“We know the challenges our frontline workers face when dealing with people affected by ice – this training will help ensure they can provide support safely,” Minister Foley said.
“We’ll continue to work with health services and local communities to ensure we have a coordinated approach to tackling ice.”
He said training would help staff “to manage chaotic and violent behaviour typically associated with the use of ice”, better protecting their personal safety.
Minister for Health Jill Hennessy supports the initiative.
“Our frontline workers deserve to feel safe at work so they can do their job treating patients and saving lives,” she said.
“This training is an important tool for our paramedics, nurses, doctors and social workers who are working at the coal face of this challenging issue.”
Rise in drug-related calls
New Turning Point analysis of alcohol and other drug-related ambulance attendances during 2014-15 shows a 29 per cent increase in attendances for illicit substances – in particular methamphetamine, which increased by 48 per cent.
Part of the Andrews Government’s Ice Action Plan, also includes an online training package and more support for managers and supervisors to support frontline staff.
The State Government will also provide more support to reduce the harm associated with injecting drug use by increasing access to the Victoria Needle and Syringe Program.
Five additional providers will receive a $30,000 one-off grant to expand access to equipment at Corio, Werribee, Morwell, Mildura and Shepparton – helping services extend the hours of access and engage with more users.