Coalition Government announces funding boost to provide emergency department security in summer hotspots as violence rises

The Government has announced a $5.7 million boost for emergency department (ED) security over the 2023/2024 summer.    

Health Minister Shane Reti said the funding is in response to reports of an "increased frequency of violent incidents in hospitals.   

"We've committed to these additional workers to help keep patients - and our hard-working doctors, nurses and other ED staff - safe during a particularly busy time."   

The money will pay for an extra 200 people (93 full-time-equivalent), who Dr Reti said will "be ready to provide round-the-clock cover and the first people are on the ground already".  

Higher risk EDs will receive an additional five security staff each until the end of February.   

The higher risk EDs are the four hospitals in Auckland and those in Waikato, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.    

Twenty-four EDs near summer hot spots will receive between two and five additional security who will be available through to mid-January or late February.    

Dr Reti said the funding will address "an immediate need".   

In 2021, Health New Zealand reported 1179 assaults and this rose to 3459 in 2022.    

The first three months of 2023 saw 1267 assaults reported and "if this trend continues, it will have exceeded 5000 reported incidents" this year, Dr Reti said.  

"There's no place for people being abusive or aggressive towards staff, who are doing their absolute best for their fellow New Zealanders in often stressful situations."   

In November, two Auckland emergency doctors wrote to Te Whatu Ora requesting a permanent 24/7 security service dedicated to EDs. 

"The frequency of violent incidents is just so great now and the current supply of security staff across those hospitals is insufficient to meet that level," said Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Sarah Dalton.   

A recent study found about 95 percent of New Zealanders visit EDs when that is the appropriate care, challenging past assumptions overcrowding was aggravated by unnecessary visits. 

Dr Reti said the Government is also "committed to working urgently on a longer-term plan to improve security across our hospitals".   

The "hotspot" hospitals that will receive two to five additional security staff:   

  • Bay of Islands 
  • Dargaville 
  • Kaitaia
  • Whangārei 
  • Tauranga 
  • Whakatāne 
  • Rotorua 
  • Taupō 
  • Taranaki Base 
  • Te Kuiti 
  • Thames 
  • Tokoroa 
  • Taumarunui 
  • Hawke's Bay 
  • Wairarapa 
  • Hutt Valley 
  • Nelson 
  • Wairau 
  • Ashburton 
  • Buller 
  • Te Nikau Greymouth 
  • Timaru 
  • Lakes District 
  • Invercargill