Alan Kelly calls for ‘zero tolerance’ for hospital staff attacks

Labour has called on the HSE and hospital managements to respond to the high number of assaults on staff in HSE-run hospitals.

Following the revelations in yesterday’s Irish Examiner that almost 3,500 assaults took place in HSE hospitals in recent years Alan Kelly, the party’s spokesman on health, said the HSE should take a “zero tolerance approach” to these attacks.

“It is incumbent on the HSE and hospital management to respond to these shockingly high figures, ensure these attacks are taken seriously and that, where possible, action is taken (and ensure) assaults are reported to An Garda Síochána, and criminal prosecutions pursued.

“Nurses, midwives, doctors and other health staff must be able to go about their already busy work with the knowledge that any attack on them will be taken seriously and prosecuted wherever possible. The minister for health should also examine this issue with his colleagues in Government and review the relevant law to ensure it is fit for purpose and (consider) if heavier fines might be necessary to act as a deterrent.”

He said while assaults and attacks will always unfortunately occur, particularly in what can be a stressful and upsetting environment for patients and families, “knowing that there is a zero tolerance attitude to such misbehaviour would go some way to change societal attitudes and help protect frontline staff”.

Figures released to the Irish Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act show that 3,462 incidents of physical assaults were recorded by the HSE between January 1, 2011, and July 27, 2016. The overall figure is higher once voluntary hospitals are taken into account but these figures are not complied by the HSE.

Almost 70% of assaults are against frontline staff, with 2,372 incidents recorded against nurses, midwives, psychiatric nurses or other nursing staff. More than one third (37%) of all assaults resulted in a physical injury.

Irish Nurses and Midwife Organisation (INMO) general secretary Liam Doran said more needs to be done to protect staff in hospitals.

“It’s a consequence unfortunately of a societal issue, particularly on nights and on weekends. Regrettably, the employer has been too passive,” he said, adding that far more needs to be done to minimise the threat of assault.

The HSE said: “While it is accepted that the provision of health services can involve situational conflicts, this recognition should not be equated with considering any form of aggression and/or violence as being inherent, inevitable or acceptable.”


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