Remote health workforce safety and security: problems and solutions

Remote health workforce safety and security: problems and solutions Conference Paper

14th National Rural Health Conference: A World of Rural Health

  • Author(s): Menere, R
  • Secondary Author(s): Coleman, Leanne
  • Published: 2017
  • Publisher: National Rural Health Alliance

Abstract: A range of significant occupational health and safety challenges affect clinicians resident in remote communities, as well as visiting Allied Health, Medical Specialist, Retrieval and Management staff. While violence towards the remote health workforce has not been accurately quantified, it has been identified extensively in research and the national media. In 2016, violence took the life of one clinician and forever damaged the lives of at least two others. However, remote area workforce safety and security involves much more than assault and provision of on-call services. Vehicle accidents are the largest single cause of severe injury and death of remote health staff. Sub-standard infrastructure has been a primary cause to others. Bullying and harassment has also been identified by clinicians as a major health challenge, and a cause of changing staff retention behaviours. Consultation to date with remote area staff has detailed a number of safety and security concerns. Seventy percent of those surveyed have had no formal training in the use of four-wheel drive vehicles or emergency communications equipment. Fifty percent of staff had no structured orientation. While eighty-five percent considered clinic buildings were secure, twenty-five percent identified that their accommodation was unsafe or not secure. Forty percent of clinics were consistently implementing safety protocols – a good start. However, thirty percent of clinics had no indigenous health staff – a real challenge to promoting effective, culturally safe services in remote communities. Thirty percent identified violence, bullying and harassment as the primary reason for their decision to leave work. While there’s no quick fix, the Remote Area Workforce Safety and Security Project has identified practical interventions that will improve remote area workforce safety and security. Some responses are built on OHS guidelines and industry accepted standards such as ‘Never Alone’. Some interventions will require considerable resource input to facilities, equipment and training. However, to improve safety and security, all primary stakeholders including clinicians, recruitment agencies, managers, employers, communities, educators, researchers, professional organisations, and government must be committed to introduce and sustain a culture of safety into remote area health services.

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Suggested Citation
Menere, R, 2017, Remote health workforce safety and security: problems and solutions, Conference Paper, viewed 07 December 2021,

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