Health workers take on new watch-house role

HEALTH workers could soon be keeping a close eye on watch-house detainees.

The Queensland Government is set to trial the idea of allowing paramedics and nurses to monitor and treat people in watch-houses in a bid to curb the dangers of alcohol, drugs and street violence.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said 17 watch-houses were included in the trial, which was part of the Government’s Queensland-wide ‘Safe Night Out’ Strategy.


The dedicated workers will begin staffing the facilities on New Year’s Eve and on Friday and Saturday nights from January 2, 2015.

The program is set to cost $800,000 in 2014-’15 and will have an annual full year cost of $1.6 million.

“Every weekend across Queensland, watch-houses cope with detainees suffering from medical conditions and others impaired through the abuse of drugs and alcohol,” Mr Springborg said.

“This initiative will enhance their safety and health in watch-houses. It will also ensure the increasing number of detainees who require medication are properly supported and address the correct supervision of medically prescribed drugs if required.

“Paramedics and registered nurses are trained health care professionals who respond to and treat all types of medical emergencies and trauma. They are familiar with the local health-care network and will have access to the full range of ambulance and health resources it provides.

“Having a trained paramedic or a nurse on hand will greatly assist members of the public held in custody and fully inform medical decisions regarding care, treatment, and transport arrangements.”

Mr Springborg said the trial would facilitate a ‘health assessment’ of incoming detainees to determine their suitability to be safely held in custody.

“Should detainees fail that assessment, police have the option to discharge the person into the care of a responsible person with a Notice to Appear at a later date. Alternatively our health care professionals will be able to arrange their transfer under medical supervision for appropriate treatment,” he said.

“Although many Queensland Police and watch-house officers are trained in first aid, they are not medical practitioners. Nurses and paramedics have the training and experience to identify and address the likelihood and consequences of mental and physical conditions.

“They have the training to provide direct assistance if necessary, the skill to keep a patient stable and the knowledge to co-ordinate access to appropriate transport and medical resources.

“At times of high demand, their presence will ensure responsibility for life and death decision-making is lifted from the shoulders of police officers and watch-house staff.”

The watch-houses in Southport and Surfers Paradise will be part of the trial as well as Beenleigh, Toowoomba, Richlands, Ipswich, Brisbane City, Pine Rivers, Cleveland, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns, Mt. Isa and Redcliffe.