Increased hospital security provides ‘peace of mind’

Photo: ODT files
Dunedin Hospital. Photo: ODT files
The extra security presence in southern hospitals this summer is "invaluable", Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand Southern says.

As part of a nationwide temporary boost last month Dunedin Hospital was granted five more security guards until the end of February.

Three more were assigned to Southland Hospital and two more to Lakes District Hospital for a shorter period ending this Sunday.

HNZ Southern group director of operations Hamish Brown said it aimed to help Emergency Department staff and patients feel safer.

"The extra security staff have also helped people with directions at the hospitals, assisted patients into ED and patrolled outside the hospitals to further heighten their presence on-site.

"An increase in security presence has created an awareness that things are safer with security officers being visible at our emergency department entrances."

In addition to the temporary extra staff, there were 36 security officers covering Dunedin and Wakari Hospitals.

Southland Hospital had seven permanent security staff and about 11 contractors in addition to the extra staff.

Announcing the boost, Health Minister Shane Reti said the $5.7 million boost would provide an additional 200 staff — or 93 FTE — throughout 32 hospitals nationally.

HNZ reported 1267 assaults at its hospitals between January and March last year, he said, a figure higher than the yearly total for 2021.

HNZ Southern did not provide the Otago Daily Times with data on the number of incidents since the introduction of the scheme and during the corresponding timeframe the previous year, stating that it would process this as an Official Information Act request.

"Staff in our ED’s have said the additional security guards have been invaluable and provided staff some peace of mind, knowing there’s help available if needed," Mr Brown said.

Waiting could be stressful, especially when people were feeling unwell, but staff provided the best care they could and violence would not be tolerated.

The boost was criticised by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation recently for not addressing the underlying issue of staff shortages contributing to patient frustration.