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Parliamentary Questions

Question On Notice No. 1305 asked in the Legislative Council on 10 May 2018 by Hon Robin Scott

Question Directed to the: Parliamentary Secretary representing the Minister for Health
Minister responding: Hon R.H. Cook
Parliament: 40 Session: 1

(1) Can the Minister explain why nurses in remote regional Western Australian towns are being forced to work alone, which exposes these hardworking people to unacceptable risks and security issues?
(2) Does the Minister support nurses working alone in remote Western Australian regional towns where these people are exposed to unacceptable risks and security issues?
(3) If yes to (2), why?
(4) What steps is the Minister taking to eliminate the risks faced by nurses who are working alone in remote regional towns?

Answered on 26 June 2018

I am advised that:

(1) WA Country Health Service (WACHS) provides services in over 200 locations and directly into communities throughout Country Western Australia where there is at times a requirement for staff to work alone. WACHS has eight single nursing posts in rural and remote areas of Western Australia (WA). WACHS has introduced a Working in Isolation Policy to support all staff in this area, implementing risk assessments to assess and mitigate staff safety risks relevant to each site.

(2) The Minister for Health acknowledges that nurses and other health professional groups who work in community settings, hospitals and remote areas of WA are at times required to work alone. WACHS has a policy requirement to ensure that risk assessments are undertaken to safeguard and minimise identified risks at each site with appropriate actions and escalations taken.

(3) Not applicable.

(4) The WACHS Working in Isolation Policy provides for a range of risk assessments to be undertaken including hazard identification in the physical workplace and staff risk assessment prior to any emergency service requirements. Staff safety in the workplace is prioritised in the induction and orientation of all new staff emphasising adherence to workplace guidelines at all times, especially prior to community/home visits to determine if a support person is required. Where staff have identified there is a potentially high risk situation they are not required to work alone. WACHS have developed strong relationships with WA Police and trusted community members where staff are working alone to ensure additional support is available.

WACHS is also using technology to assist staff working alone. In addition to daily contact with supervisor via telephone, the use of mobile duress alarms is being trialled in three WACHS regions (Kimberley, Pilbara and South West).