SHOCKING ABUSE: Doctor speaks out on emergency room attacks
THE fear of being physically attacked is all too real for doctors and staff at Fraser Coast hospitals.
But it's another type of abuse that is having a major impact on the morale of those on the frontline of the region's health system.
While violence against staff has dropped at Wide Bay hospitals over the past 12 months, physician and emergency staff specialist Jane Chaplin said she had noticed the growing impact racist abuse, perpetrated by members of the public, has had on her team.
Both Hervey Bay and Maryborough hospitals employ staff from a range of backgrounds and cultures and Dr Chaplin said patients regularly hurled racial abuse at the very people trying to help them.
"The verbal aggression and racism we see - I find that very sad as a human being," she said.
"It makes me very angry and very sad."
Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service is taking more action than ever against people who abuse staff in the Fraser Coast's emergency departments.
Police are acting as partners with doctors and nurses, charging not only those involved in physical assaults, but those who verbally abuse staff as well.
This could mean removing people with non-urgent medical conditions who become aggressive or hitting them with fines for public nuisance.
Dr Chaplin said it was important for staff to see abusive behaviour perpetrated against them was being addressed.
Education and training has been provided to staff regarding how to approach violence and aggression in their workplace, including how to de-escalate situation.
The health service has also strengthened procedures for dealing with difficult or aggressive patients.
Dr Chaplin said she understood extra stress caused by waiting times, which were being eased by hospital upgrades, or feeling unwell could cause people to lash out.
But she asked the public to consider the well-being of those who were simply trying to help them.
"There needs to be boundaries - the behaviour is not acceptable," she said.