News National Nurse stabbing: Hospital shift workers say they fear for their lives

Nurse stabbing: Hospital shift workers say they fear for their lives

Academics from two of Australia's largest nursing faculties say weak students are being undeservedly awarded nursing degrees, potentially endangering public safety.
Nurses around Australia are calling for better working conditions after a colleague was stabbed in Adelaide. Photo: Shutterstock
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Nurses around the country are calling for greater security, lights and better staff parking outside hospitals after a shift worker was stabbed in the neck.

A nurse was on her break outside Adelaide’s Lyell McEwin Hospital on Monday when a stranger asked for a cigarette before slashing her neck.

The man remains on the run and the nurse is being treated in hospital, where she is due to undergo surgery to repair a cut under her chin.

Adelaide Hospital
The stabbing victim is recovering at Royal Adelaide Hospital. Photo: AAP

The stabbing has reignited calls for greater safety measures among Australian nurses and medical staff who have been lobbying for better working conditions for years.

Frightened nurses have told The New Daily they feel unsafe walking through dark streets and car parks after night shifts, with some saying they have to “look over their shoulder” as they leave work over fears of being followed.

“Nothing’s ever happened to me, but sometimes you feel more uneasy than others using public transport and hanging around the hospital,” nurse Siobhan told The New Daily. 

The young nurse pointed to a horrifying incident in which a woman was attacked and raped by a man who followed her off a tram outside Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital in 2017.

Other medical staff say they’re concerned about patients on drugs, such as ice, waiting to attack them outside the hospital after a shift.

“Sometimes I’m worried that I’ve kicked a patient out or security have helped hold down a patient and they might be down one of the back streets I have to use to ride home,” nurse Nikita said.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation’s South Australian branch president Elizabeth Dabars said the union had long been pushing for government action on issues of “violence and aggression” against nurses.

“Once again, we’ve got another occurrence of a really violent act being perpetrated against a nurse,” Ms Dabars said in relation to the Adelaide stabbing.

“Quite frankly we’re sick of nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals being put at risk every day.”

Elizabeth Dabars
Nurses union SA branch president Elizabeth Dabars is calling on the government to better support nurses. Photo: AAP

South Australian hospital staff are slugged some of the nation’s highest parking fees, set to worsen next year due to a recent decision by the state government to increase taxes.

The changes will mean that from January 1, the fortnightly staff parking fee for metropolitan public hospital staff will more than double from $21.59 to a whopping $49.50.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, more than 12,000 people have signed a petition calling for cheaper hospital staff parking at the Royal Children’s Hospital following the recent murder of 25-year-old Courtney Herron in nearby Royal Park.

Mourners and people touched by the murder of Courtney Herron gather at a candlelight vigil in Melbourne. Photo: AAP

Unwilling to fork out $15 a day for parking, many nurses at the hospital resort to walking through poorly lit parkland where two young women have been murdered in just 12 months.

“After the tragic death of another young woman, the staff at RCH would like a review of the $15 day rate for parking,” the petition reads.

“It is no longer safe for members of our community to commute to work when it is dark outside – morning or night.”

In 2016, outback nurse Gayle Woodford was raped and murdered by a man who lured her to his property after pretending to need medical assistance in rural South Australia in 2016.

gayle woodford
The killer of Gayle Woodford has been sentenced to a minimum of 32 years in jail. Photo: Facebook

Gayle’s Law, a new law that will require remote health workers to be accompanied when attending after-hours callouts, is due to come into force on July 1.

But Ms Dabars said the law has been undermined by the South Australian government, which passed regulations attached to the bill that will allow unaccompanied callouts if workers complete a risk assessment.

“The regulations that say ‘If you deem it safe then it’s fine to go alone’ undermine the entire principle,” Ms Dabars said.

“How many terrible events do you need in order to focus attention and achieve change?”

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