Govt boosts ED security to keep hospitals safe

The coalition government is delivering a $5.7 million boost to emergency department security this summer, employing an extra 200 people (93 FTE) to keep hospital EDs safe.

“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 safety of the health workforce and patients has to be a priority. These staff will be ready to provide round-the-clock cover and the first people are on the ground already,” Dr Reti says.

Eight higher risk emergency departments – in the four Auckland hospitals, along with Waikato, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin – will each receive an additional five security staff for an extended period until the end of February. 

A further 24 emergency departments near summer hotspots will each receive between two and five additional security staff to help manage pressures over the summer holiday peak period. These staff will be available through to mid-January or late February, depending on local needs.

“This initiative addresses an immediate need,” Dr Reti says. “I’m also committed to working urgently on a longer-term plan to improve security across our hospitals.  

“In 2021, HNZ reported 1,179 assaults, rising to 3,459 in 2022. In the first three months of 2023, 1,267 assaults were reported. If this trend continues, it will have exceeded 5,000 reported incidents in 2023. That’s totally unacceptable. 

“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.

“Emergency departments in particular are a vital part of our health system, and all New Zealanders – and the people caring for them – need to feel confident they will be safe when they walk through the door.

“These 200 staff are early steps in making a tangible difference to safety, as this government moves increased support out of the back office and into the frontline of health,” Dr Reti says.