WALK into almost any emergency department in a state hospital and you will be met by posters prominently declaring that assaults or abusive behaviour towards staff will not be tolerated. It is not a pleasant sight but a necessary one.
As our report today reveals, misbehaviour towards medical and support staff is an everyday reality. The figures are staggering: almost 3,500 staff in HSE-run hospitals were assaulted last year, many of them physically injured.
If that was happening on such a scale in any other workplace it would results in hundreds if not thousands of prosecutions for criminal conduct.
The fact that this is not happening points to a feeble response to the situation by the HSE and senior hospital management. A far more vigorous approach is needed to protect staff and to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book.
Prosecuting every assault is the best way to achieve this. Firstly, it will reassure hospital staff that they are valued and their welfare protected. Secondly, those who indulge in such behaviour will be in no doubt that they do so at their peril.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved