Healthcare staff suffered over 7,300 assaults in last 18 months

ireland
Healthcare Staff Suffered Over 7,300 Assaults In Last 18 Months Healthcare Staff Suffered Over 7,300 Assaults In Last 18 Months
There are calls for a zero tolerance approach to attacks on healthcare staff after new figures found there were over 7,300 verbal, physical or sexual assaults on staff in the last 18 months.
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James Cox

There are calls for a zero tolerance approach to attacks on healthcare staff after new figures found there were over 7,300 verbal, physical or sexual assaults on staff in the last 18 months.

The stark figures were provided to Sinn Féin's health spokesperson David Cullinane through a parliamentary question.

Frontline staff bore the brunt of the attacks, with over 4,400 committed against nurses.

Mr Cullinane thinks overcrowding in hospitals is part of the reason this is happening.

He told Newstalk: "Patients waiting over 24 hours in many instances for access to care or to be admitted into hospital if they're sick.

"That puts huge pressures on the patients and their families, none of that... it has to be said, can be offered as any justification for any sort of assault or abuse."

He has called for the Department of Health to come up with a plan to prevent these attacks, including getting gardaí more involved.

Security concerns

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In a recent interview with BreakingNews.ie, employment law solicitor Richard Grogan said hospitals will face an "avalanche" of legal cases if security concerns are not addressed following a large rise in assaults on nurses.

"The position in relation to it is that an employer is responsible if there is an assault on an employee."

Mr Grogan pointed to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005, which sets out employers' responsibility for creating a safe system of work.

"If an employer has not put in a safe system of work, then they're on the hook for a personal injury claim for the injury sustained by that staff member," he explained.

The position to date has been that nurses and doctors have taken a benign attitude towards this, that is beginning to change.

"I understand some will say 'well, we're a hospital'. That's well and good, but if this is happening they need to put in the appropriate protections.

"We know that there are people coming in blind drunk, people coming in who have taken drugs, or are coming in after a violent incident... that is not an inherent risk for someone working there, that they're not entitled to a safe system of work."

He added: "The issue that's coming up is, they have to show what they've done to protect people. How often have gardaí been called is the type of question a solicitor will ask.

"If you have a history of a particular individual coming and being disruptive, what have you done in that situation?

"I understand the difficulties hospitals have, they have to give treatment to people, but the safety of staff comes equally, if not more, to the safety of a patient coming in who has a history of being violent. The position to date has been that nurses and doctors have taken a benign attitude towards this, that is beginning to change."

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