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Recognising and reducing aggression towards health care workers in Victoria

Photo: Vic targets daily abuse of health workers
A new ad campaign will remind Victorians to stop treating health care workers aggressively after scores of assaults on paramedics, doctors and nurses.

Victorian nurse Tara Merryfull has been hit on the job, "dodged quite a few" punches and is verbally abused on a daily basis.

Ms Merryfull doesn't go into the emergency department at St Vincent's Hospital expecting to be assaulted, but knows full well it's a possibility.

She is backing an awareness campaign, launched on Tuesday, aimed at recognising and reducing aggression towards health care workers.

It comes after a surgeon was left in a critical condition thanks to a one-punch attack outside a Melbourne hospital in May.

Ms Merryfull says everyone, including police, needs to be on board.
The nurse practitioner candidate tells of a night when an agitated patient jumped on trolleys, held up staff with syringes, demanded drugs and had to be calmed down by security.

Police escorted the man from the hospital only to be called again a few days later for a near-identical situation with the same ice-affected man, after which he was arrested for smashing a window.

"It's quite upsetting that the hospital staff's safety wasn't seen as a higher enough issue to arrest the patient but damage to property was," Ms Merryfull told reporters on Tuesday.

"Police on the main part do a fantastic job, but I guess because we all deal with violence and aggression quite regularly, sometimes the violence we experience is quite underrated."

The campaign comes more than two years after it was recommended, along with nine other measures, by the state's auditor-general.

A paramedic, a hospital nurse and an aged care worker tell short, sharp stories of violence in the workplace as part of the advertising campaign.

The state government says it has been helping hospitals beef up security, including equipping security guards with stab-proof vests.

"We've got to continue to do more...our job is never done," Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said.

WorkSafe Victoria says the campaign has been in the pipeline for 12 months and wasn't prompted by a recent one-punch attack on a surgeon at Box Hill Hospital.

"We do need the community to take ownership around their behaviour when they are seeking treatment - no matter what state they are in," WorkSafe Victoria chief executive Clare Amies says.

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