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Thursday 28 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
# Assault
Hospitals recorded hundreds each of violent incidents by patients in 2021 alone
Galway University Hospitals said that only serious incidents were recorded because incidents of abuse and harassment are so “frequent”.

A PATIENT WHO headbutted and tried to gouge a healthcare worker’s eye, another who threw toilet cleaner onto staff members, and a young patient who tried to bite during an “explosive outburst” were among the violent incidents logged at one hospital last year.

Cork University Hospital reported 103 separate instances of violence, harassment, and aggression towards staff members during 2021.

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

The Mater Hospital said of the 500 plus cases of violence and aggression at their hospital in 2021, 45 of them – including 39 physical assaults – had been considered of “moderate” risk or danger.

University Hospital Limerick said they had 169 incidents last year with nine staff members suffering minor injuries because of direct physical assaults.

There was also one case of moderate injury suffered in a case of “intimidation/threat”, according to data they released under FOI.

In a sampling of major hospitals nationwide, Galway University Hospitals said that only serious incidents were recorded because incidents of abuse and harassment are so “frequent”.

They said they logged 98 such cases last year in relation to violence, aggression, and harassment of staff working at University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital.

A detailed log of incidents from Cork University Hospital reveals there were five cases where the healthcare worker required medical treatment from an assault.

One incident from October was logged as: “Removing a tourniquet from a patient after taking blood, the patient flexed his arm and his knuckles hit staff’s mouth.

“Felt pain and saw blood. My colleague arrived and contacted line manager and [the] affected staff [member] went for treatment.”

In another case in August, a patient being attended to 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 of last year.

The incident log said: “Patient twisted her right thumb backwards causing great pain. Another staff member had been present also and security had been present earlier.”

There were dozens of other incidents of violence with one patient slapping out, biting, pulling hair, and aggressively hitting at the glasses of two healthcare workers.

Another incident from February was noted as:

“Patient became aggressive and slapped staff member in the face with a pair of slippers. Patient given sedation and security called. Staff member not injured.”

There was also an incident of “racist comments” against a staff member at the Cork hospital as well as multiple cases of abusive behaviour from family members on the phone or in person.

One case from the incident log in September said:

“Relative of patient was very aggressive using foul language on the phone, threatening, and calling team liars. Informed family member that this behaviour is not acceptable, stopped conversing and ended call.”

Other violent events logged included a patient spitting in a healthcare worker’s face and a case where a bin was kicked over and fell on a staff member’s leg.

There were also Covid-19 related incidents with one person becoming “verbally abusive” after a hair appointment was cancelled while they were in isolation, and multiple cases where family members or visitors arrived without wearing masks.

Dublin’s Mater Hospital said of the twenty “minor” cases they recorded last year, sixteen were of direct physical assault, one was of physical harassment, and three were cases of unintentional aggressiveness.

They also logged 45 “moderate” incidents, most of them direct physical assaults with a small number of other cases of intimidation, threats, or verbal assault.

The majority of the 523 events in their log were classified as “negligible” with fifteen cases of “discrimination/prejudice/racial [abuse]”, eight cases of sexual assault, and nineteen of sexual harassment.

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