Health Services Union members, including security and hospitality staff at Shoalhaven hospital, stopped work on Thursday, August 1, as part of a state-wide strike to protest working conditions for security.
Nurses and paramedics supported the strike action, although they were unable to stop work. Union members said they did not have the resources they needed to keep staff and patients safe, and felt helpless.
"You've got to disassociate yourself when you walk through the door," one said.
Staff had a litany of concerns, from large issues including inadequate rosters, broken security cameras and extended waits for mental health patients, to smaller ones, such as adequate gloves not being provided.
"If a mental health patient is scheduled, we have to search their bag," a union spokesperson said.
"Many of these patients carry knives or needles in their bags. We get a thin pair of latex gloves to conduct the search. Proper gloves cost about $40. It feels like [the department] don't care."
The spokesperson said security often had to enlist help from nurses to subdue and sedate patients who were violent.
"You might have two security staff, and three female nurses trying to do a take down - it's not right," he said.
He said mental health patients were restrained in a small room off the emergency department for up to 48 hours before being seen.
"We don't think it should take that long for them to be seen," he said.
"If you're the one not letting them leave, or go for a smoke, they think you have it in for them. But you aren't allowed to let them leave."
He said patients he had detained had harassed him in the supermarket, while he was with his children.