Nurses suffered 33,000 assaults in last seven years

Nurses suffered 33,000 assaults in last seven years

There have been over 7,000 attacks on nurses since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Nurses have faced over 33,000 assaults in the last seven years, including over 7,000 attacks since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

The country's main nursing body is now calling for an urgent review of hospital security amid concerns that health workers are not being adequately protected.

Over the past seven years, 33,341 assaults were recorded on nurses and 733 assaults on doctors, HSE figures have confirmed.

In 2020 and 2021, when health workers were hailed as the frontline heroes of the pandemic, 7,737 assaults took place on nursing staff.

The worst single year was 2019 when there was an average of 15 attacks per day on nursing staff, a total of 5,358.

Punched, threatened, and abused

Nurses have spoken of being punched, threatened, abused, and intimidated by patients, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that any assault on a worker while doing their job is “unacceptable”.

“We need to know what measures are being put in place to protect a largely female workforce. The employer’s remit is to provide a safe workplace. This level of reported incidence is completely unacceptable,” she said.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha also pointed to figures obtained through the HSE’s national incident management scheme, which show that in 2020 over 8,667 staff reported physical, verbal and sexual assault in the workplace.

“Our hardworking staff are firefighting on so many fronts at the moment. We need assurances that the employer is taking measures to protect nurses and midwives seriously because the rise in incidents of assault is a serious cause of concern,” she added.

Our hospitals are not just full, they are overcrowded and this creates a pressure cooker type environment. With that, frustration can run high and a tiny minority unacceptably attack staff. This means that frontline staff are being put at risk for conditions they are not responsible for.

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond, who sought the figures from the HSE, said they showed the magnitude of the problem faced by healthcare workers.

He is calling for the HSE to complete a full and thorough audit of the security measures and response times currently in place in hospitals and healthcare facilities.

“We also need to look at imposing stiffer sentences for anyone found guilty of assaulting a healthcare worker. The message must be loud and clear; there is zero-tolerance for abuse of our medical professionals in any form. Entering a hospital does not give you an excuse to abuse the very people that are there to help,” he said.

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