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September 2014

Tough new penalties for healthcare assaults

The Government will introduce new offences that will bolster the protection of health practitioners against assault and threats.

A Bill, introduced into Parliament, will enhance protection for healthcare workers across the state.

It adds to legislation introduced to Parliament earlier this year which covered emergency workers in hospitals, along with other emergency services staff.

Amendments to the Summary Offences Act 1966, contained within the Justice Legislation Amendment (Confiscation and Other Matters) Bill 2014, create two new offences – of assaulting a registered health practitioner on hospital premises, or anywhere they are working and providing care or treatment to patients.

It builds upon the Sentencing Amendment (Emergency Workers) Bill that provides increased penalties for assaulting emergency workers as well as nurses, doctors and other staff in hospitals who provide or support emergency treatment.

Offenders who assault health practitioners in hospitals or anywhere that they are providing or supporting care will face up to six months jail, double the penalty for a common assault.

‘This legislation sends a clear message that assaults on doctors, nurses and other health professionals providing care are unacceptable,’ Health Minister David Davis said.

‘The Government is already demonstrating it is committed to improving safety and security in our hospitals and health services and will not tolerate violence against hospital staff and health practitioners.

‘Our new legislation further extends this commitment to all registered health practitioners going about their normal duties, including general practitioners, nurses, midwives, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists and psychologists.

‘It also includes health workers conducting home visits.

‘Health care workers should not be subject to threatening behaviour, violence and compromised safety and the Government is supporting them to the fullest.

‘The caring role of our healthcare workers should be respected.

‘Facilities or practices where health services are provided should also be safe for patients and our legislation will send a clear message to ensure that everyone is fully aware that violence will not be tolerated.’

Mr Davis said the Government had committed more than $40 million over the forward estimates for safety and security initiatives, including funding to improve the management of mental health patients, training, capital improvements and upgrading duress and security systems.

It had also established an advisory committee to provide advice and oversight on safety and security initiatives to improve safety in healthcare settings, particularly hospitals.

The committee is chaired by Bendigo Health Chief Executive Officer John Mulder and includes senior representatives from the nursing, medical, security, human services and police sectors.