Headbutting and abuse: hospital staff subjected to hundreds of assaults at work

A patient who headbutted and tried to gouge out a healthcare worker’s eye, another who threw toilet cleaner at staff members and a patient who tried to bite an employee during of an “explosive explosion” were among the violent incidents recorded at a hospital last year.

ork University Hospital (CUH) reported 103 cases of violence, harassment and assault against staff members in 2021.

At another of the country’s busiest hospitals, there were 523 separate incidents last year, including eight cases of sexual assault and 19 others of sexual harassment.

Dublin’s Mater Hospital said that of the more than 500 cases of violence and assault in their hospital in 2021, 45 of them – including 39 physical assaults – were deemed to present a “moderate risk or danger”. “.

Limerick University Hospital said it had 169 incidents last year, with nine staff members sustaining minor injuries due to direct physical assaults. There was also one case of moderate injury sustained in an “intimidation/threat” case, according to Freedom of Information data.

In a sample of large hospitals across the country, the Galway University Hospitals Group said only serious incidents had been recorded because incidents of abuse and harassment are so “frequent”.

The group said it recorded 98 such cases last year in relation to violence, assault and harassment of staff working at Galway University Hospital and Merlin Park University Hospital.

A detailed incident log from CUH revealed that there were five instances where the healthcare worker required medical attention following an assault.

An October incident was recorded as follows: “While removing a tourniquet from a patient after drawing blood, the patient flexed his arm and his knuckles hit the staff’s mouth.

“I felt pain and saw blood. My colleague arrived and contacted the supervisor and (the) staff (member) concerned went for treatment.

In another case in August, a patient in care became violent while trying to get out of bed. He “twisted (the) right wrist” of the staff member who suffered pain and swelling as a result.

A healthcare worker suffered ‘great pain’ after going to the aid of a patient who appeared to be falling in November 2021.

The incident log stated: “The patient twisted her right thumb backwards causing great pain.

“Another member of staff was also present and security was present earlier.”

There have been dozens of other violent incidents with a patient slapping, biting, hair-pulling and aggressively punching the glasses of two healthcare workers.

Another February incident was noted as follows: “The patient became aggressive and slapped a staff member in the face with a pair of slippers. The patient was sedated and security called. Uninjured staff member.

There was also an incident of ‘racist comments’ against a member of staff at Cork Hospital as well as multiple instances of abusive behavior by family members over the phone or in person.

Other violent events recorded include a patient spitting in the face of a healthcare worker and a case where a trash can was knocked over and fell on a staff member’s leg.

Mater Hospital said of the 20 “minor” cases they recorded last year, 16 were direct physical assaults, one was physical harassment and three were cases of unintentional aggression.

They also recorded 45 “moderate” incidents, most of which were physical assaults with a small number of instances of verbal intimidation, threats or assaults.

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