A death of mental health acute beds in Victoria’s hospitals has been blamed for a spate of assaults on nurses in recent weeks.

Psychiatric nurses have been sexually assaulted by patients at Monash Medical Centre, where assaults broke out just days before management was forced to create a temporary ward for eight mentally ill patients due to drastic undersupply of beds.

The revelation followed reports of violent incidents at Dandenong Hospital and the Royal Children’s Hospital – where a nurse’s hair was pulled out and another was punched in the face.

Australian Nursing Federation Victorian branch assistant secretary Pip Carew reportedly said the attacks indicated unprecedented pressure on the hospital system. She said delays in getting the mentally unwell into the inpatient unit were typically the cause of a rise in violence.

Two nurses were attacked at the Royal Children’s Hospital by an aggressive patient from a low-security ward. It is understood the patient punched one nurse in the face and ripped another’s hair out during a fray in March.

At Dandenong Hospital, a nurse was threatened with a knife and another had part of her breast bitten off and needed plastic surgery. ANF Victorian branch assistant secretary Paul Gilbert said the hospital had left nurses to fend for themselves with no ‘Code Grey’ policy in place to deal with violent incidents.

The nurse’s union lays blame for the assaults at the state government’s door, following its failure to honour its pre-election promise of spending $21 million to make hospitals safer. It is understood that there are currently 24 fewer mental health acute beds than when the Coalition came to power in 2010, according to a recent audit by the union. The ANF claims many assaults on nurses are not reported.