Hospital violence rife
Paula Beauchamp, health reporter
HIGH-pressure hospitals and health clinics are hotbeds of crime, where patients and staff daily face violent attacks.
Twenty-one people were raped on health premises last year - up 54 per cent since 2001-02, confidential police figures show.
Hundreds of others were set upon by angry attackers wielding syringes, knives and guns.
Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson said users of the state's health system and its staff were particularly vulnerable to attack.
"People face life-and-death issues and tempers can flare, leading to violence and stress," she said.
A Herald Sun investigation into hospital violence has found:
STAFF who counsel relatives to turn off a patient's life support are at particular risk, with staff in one case threatened with a gun.
A HOSPITAL worker cornered in a stairwell escaped from a man who tried to rape her.
THE father of a girl fatally wounded in a car crash tried to strangle his daughter's doctor.
SIX orderlies were bashed by youths who went on a rampage at Western Hospital and smashed windows in the emergency department.
A THEATRE technician was attacked by a colleague who threatened to rape her with a vibrator.
A PATIENT stabbed his GP after the doctor gave him a bad diagnosis.
NURSES have been abducted from car parks.
Police figures show thieves also struck 2783 times in the past year.
The Government this week announced a new taskforce to investigate claims of rising violence against nurses in the state's hospitals.
Melbourne University research released this week found 2639 reports of violence in the past six months against nurses in four state hospitals.
Australian Nursing Federation spokeswoman Jeanette Sdrinis said more nurses were reporting violence, but under-reporting was a major problem.
"Only about 10 to 20 per cent of these incidents are reported," she said.
"There has definitely been an increase in violence and people presenting with substance abuse."
AMA vice-president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said GPs also took precautions, using panic buttons, to avoid patient attacks and violence in waiting rooms.
Health minister Bronwyn Pike's spokesman Ben Hart said 78,000 more Victorians visited health services in 2002-03 than in 2001-02, yet the number of crimes reported dropped.
But opposition health spokesman David Davis said staff and patients deserved to be able to visit hospitals in safety.