02/05/2002

Minister meets with health service staff to discuss attacks



The Stormont Health Minister Bairbre de Brún has met with a group of union officials and health service workers to hear at first hand the problems they are facing due to unprovoked attacks.

Violent attacks on Accident and Emergency, Ambulance Service staff, community care workers and other public service staff have been increasing over the past number of years and show no signs of reducing.

At the meeting, the Minister said she was making available funds immediately to support an Ambulance Service initiative to pilot a ‘Community Education Programme’ which would tour schools and educate children about the service they provide.

The Minister also said that a working group to address violence towards staff employed in the health sector has already been set up. The issues under consideration include training for staff, raising public awareness, criminal justice issues, support for staff who have been attacked and gaining community support to stop the attacks.

This working group are expected to have completed their analysis by the end of June.

Paddy Milligan, Unison branch Commander of the NI Ambulance Service said the meeting was “highly productive” and that they were pleased that a working group had already been set up to address ways to tackle violence to their workers.

However, he added that they would be seeking another meeting with the Minister to highlight problems, specifically the issue of funding, for the Ambulance Service.

Speaking after the meeting Ms de Brún said: “Attacks on public service staff are completely unacceptable and I am once again appealing to community leaders and the communities themselves to take steps to stop the attacks.

“An attack on a health service employee is an attack on the health and personal social services itself and such disgraceful behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.”

The Minister also welcomed the positive outcome of the recent discussions between the Ambulance Service, the Fire Service, HSS Boards, Unison and the Belfast Education and Library Board on the prospect of a multi agency education programme.

“I look forward to any initiatives that arise from this meeting and am willing to consider bids for initiatives that will help to address the problem, particularly if these can be developed on a multi agency and cross Departmental basis.”

(AMcE)


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