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One-for-one needle exchange opposed

Date

Peter Jean Health Reporter

The Alexander Maconochie Centre.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Rohan Thomson

A majority of unionised Canberra nurses oppose plans for a medically supervised ''one-for-one'' prison needle exchange, a poll has found.

But nearly half of the respondents to an Australian Nursing Federation survey gave in-principle support to a needle exchange program in the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

As part of a prison blood-borne virus management strategy, the ACT government wants to allow prison doctors to issue detainees with clean syringes in exchange for used ones.

In a submission to the government, the federation said it had consulted its members and would oppose the needle exchange component of the strategy.

Of federation members who responded to a union survey, 49 per cent supported a needle and syringe exchange program, 39 per cent were opposed and 12 per cent were unsure.

Asked if they would support the one-for-one exchange proposal, 53 per cent of respondents answered no, 38 per cent said yes and 9 per cent were unsure.

''What is apparent is that, currently, ANF members, including a number of members employed at the AMC, do not support the establishment of a medically managed one-for-one NSP [needle and syringe program] within AMC,'' the submission said.

The federation supported other components of the blood-borne virus management strategy.

The Community and Public Sector Union, which represents prison officers, is opposed to the introduction of a needle and syringe exchange in the centre.

The enterprise agreement which covers the prison precludes the introduction of a needle exchange without union approval.

In another submission to the government, the federation criticised a draft ACT health workforce plan being developed for the period to 2017. The union said it was unclear how a proposal for more part-time employees to shift to full-time work would be achieved.

The union also criticised plans for greater use of health assistants. It believed this ''may be accompanied by a number of serious quality, risk management issues''.

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