Increasing the number of security staff in emergency departments (EDs) over the busy Christmas and New Year period improved the safety of both staff and patients, Health Minister Dr Shane Reti says.
200 additional security staff (93 FTEs) were provided to 32 EDs in response to concerns raised by ED staff about safety and an increase in reported incidents over the previous 12 months. The additional staff were available from December through mid-January or late February depending on local needs.
“EDs are a vital part of our health system, and all New Zealanders need to feel confident they will be safe when they walk through the door, especially over the holiday period when traditionally there is increased pressure,” Dr Reti says.
“We knew this was an important initiative, which is why it was in our 100-day plan. I’m really pleased with the impact it’s had - I’ve spoken to ED staff and they tell me they felt safer. It’s really important to me that our workforce is looked after.
“I know that Health New Zealand – Te Whatu Ora also takes the safety of staff and patients very seriously and this initiative has helped enhance its safety programme.
“I understand from Health NZ that the feedback from frontline staff has been overwhelmingly positive and that the guards' presence in ED has certainly helped with both staff and patients feeling safer.
“At Middlemore, senior staff report that violent incidents almost halved during December 2023 (compared with the previous December). While Health NZ will continue to assess results nationally, that’s very encouraging.”
A survey of ED staff in December found 78 per cent agreed that managing violence and employee safety was a priority for their team.
“This was a summer initiative which addressed an urgent immediate need while officials develop further advice on a sustainable long-term model. In the meantime, I expect Health New Zealand to continue to monitor the situation and report to me regularly,” Dr Reti says.