Will GP copayment increase violence in hospitals?

Guest Post: Briana Scully has contributed this (first-ever) guest post to meta4RN.com

BrianaScullyBrianna Scully is a first year journalism student at the University of Technology Sydney. As well as writing stories for university, Brianna is also a Beauty Editorial Intern at Her Fashion Box. Although she hasn’t been studying journalism for long, Brianna is sure this is the right career path for her and wishes to work in print or television production in the future. @brianna_scully

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Will GP copayment increase violence in hospitals?

Although fire extinguishers are typically thought of as potentially life-saving devices, they proved the opposite to Paul McNamara when one was “being held at shoulder height by a tall, fit, powerful young man on a violent rampage in a medical ward.” This is the chilling account of mental health nurse Paul McNamara in his blog titled Emotional Aftershocks. Paul, who works in the medical and surgical wards of a large regional hospital, is one example of increasing violence against nurses in Australia.

A 2013 survey by Nursing Careers Allied Health revealed 39 per cent of nurses had experienced violence in the past five years. With massive cuts to health in this year’s Federal Budget, medical professionals and experts predict that violence against nurses in hospitals will rise.

A spokesperson for the Victorian Branch of the Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation said violence has increased due to “an increase in methamphetamine abuse by the public, staffing shortages in hospitals and longer waiting periods in emergency departments.” Michael Roche, senior health lecturer and coordinator of the Glueing it Together: Nurses, their work environment and patient safety study in NSW, believes adequate staffing is key in preventing violence, and that budget cuts to health will have a detrimental outcome. “We have found that a higher proportion of registered nurses was associated with lower rates of violence, so a corresponding reduction would likely increase rates. . .if fewer staff were available then it is easy to see how patients and families could become frustrated, increasing the potential for violence. 

 Paul McNamara believes violence against nurses was not as much of an issue for previous generations. “Intoxication with alcohol and amphetamines is certainly part of the problem, but there’s more to it I think; something to do with a change in culture perhaps.”

Tara Nipe, a nurse at a tertiary metropolitan hospital, believes the proposed $7 co-payment for visits to the GP will prevent early detection of illnesses and lead to increasing numbers of patients needing emergency care. “If it’s a choice between a $7 GP fee or bread, milk, cereal and spreads for a week, some people will decide not to go in about that red, sore patch on their leg, pain in urination, or really nasty cold . . . When they present to emergency departments they’ll be sicker, needing admission and expensive intervention, putting more pressure on an already stretched system, and increasing the kinds of factors that contribute to violence.”

According to an ABC article, Health Minister Peter Dutton claimed co-payments would be beneficial to those who can’t afford healthcare in the future. However, the NSW Shadow Minister for Health Andrew McDonald believes the co-payment is a “dreadful policy” that will be “extremely damaging to the Australian health system.” Dr. McDonald believes the most effective way to prevent violence is to abandon the co-payment. “It [violence] certainly is a problem that is increasing and one that will certainly get worse if our emergency departments go into meltdown, as is highly likely with co-payments.”

Despite the fact he was not physically harmed, Paul McNamara suffered emotionally after the event, writing: “[I] get teary every now and then when I think of what could have happened: those skull-cracking thoughts are the worst bit.” Although there are calls for a ‘Zero Tolerance Policy’ where no act of violence is tolerated by medical staff, Paul believes a caring approach is more effective. “Not every nurse gets exposed to violence or abuse, but you’ll see it up-close-and-personal through your patient’s eyes sometimes. Nurses do emotional labour: be prepared for the emotional aftershocks that come with the job.”

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Many thanks to Briana Scully for contributing this article, initially written as an assignment for her journalism course, to be the inaugural guest post on meta4RN.com. In keeping with an university assignment Briana listed her sources, but they have not been included on the online version. To contact Briana directly go via Twitter: @brianna_scully

As always, please feel free to leave comments below. I would be pleased to hear from others interested in contributing a guest post to meta4RN.com (especially, but not limited to, students who have an assignment that it is likely to be of interest to nurses and midwives).

Paul McNamara, 25th June 2014

 

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