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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1192


Senator SHELDON (New South Wales) (19:30): This is not my first speech. I rise tonight to highlight the safety crisis at New South Wales public hospitals as a result of a failure of the state coalition government to invest in adequate staffing and training for hospital security. Last year alone there were 465 assaults at New South Wales hospitals, and the numbers are rising. Our hospitals have never been more dangerous, both for the staff and for the community that relies on them. At the Nepean Hospital in 2016, an incident occurred that almost cost the life of a local police officer and a health worker. It was an incident that saw a police officer and a hospital security guard shot, resulting in a serious condition, an incident that prompted a New South Wales government review.

One after another, months of deliberations came back with an insulting recommendation for only 15 additional hospital security guards across the state, and no recommendations of increased training or support for security guards to deal with the increase in assaults. Yet, year after year and incident after incident, and despite repeated calls for action by health workers, the New South Wales government has done little. That's why this Thursday close to 22,000 health workers are taking industrial action—action voted upon and supported by over 500 rank-and-file representatives at a recent meeting. The Health Services Union secretary, Gerard Hayes, is leading this fight. Let me put on record my support for these workers, and I call on the New South Wales government to work with the Health Services Union to increase security staffing levels and provide specialist training to these workers at New South Wales public hospitals.

Our health workers deserve no less. These workers care for their patients. They are tired of being ignored. Thursday's action is a considered decision of workers who deserve better—workers like paramedic Tess Oxley, at Campbelltown Hospital, who, fearing for a patient's and her own safety, was forced to load a patient back into the ambulance, unable to admit them because of an erratic patient and an unguarded emergency department. Ms Oxley was right when she told her story to 9News:

We shouldn't have to be worried about having our back turned to somebody else - that we're going to get pushed, that we're going to get punched, that we're going to get spat on.

And there are workers like a local Western Sydney father who has worked at security at Westmead for over 25 years. He says that he and his colleagues are 'understaffed, under-resourced, unable to deal appropriately with the explosion of assaults and violence in our hospitals'.

No-one, especially these frontline workers, security staff and paramedics, deserves to feel unsafe at work. It is not just about safety; it's about quality of care. I wish the best for this campaign. It's in the interests of all New South Welshmen and also in the interests of good governance. Congratulations on their action.