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HSE fined €23,000 over attack on nurses by a patient

The HSE pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 at Trim Circuit Court.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated Apr 28th 2022, 10:00 AM

THE HEALTH SERVICE Executive (HSE) has been fined €23,000 in relation to an incident which resulted in a number of nurses being injured. 

The HSE pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 at Trim Circuit Court.

In a statement, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) said the case arose following an investigation into a “serious incident of violence and aggression” at the workplace resulting in the assault of a number of nurses by a patient.

The incident occurred on 29 August 2016 at the Department of Psychiatry of Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Co Meath.

The HSE pleaded guilty that there was “no adequate assessment, documenting, communicating and management” of risks to the safety, health and welfare of employees in the Navan Unit arising from the known hazard of violence and aggression from high-risk patients.

The HSE also pleaded guilty to failing to manage and conduct work activities, specifically the operation of the Psychiatric Unit, in such a way as to ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of employees.

The guilty plea was in relation to the fact that there was no emergency response team to respond when employees activated their personal alarms in circumstances where the staff of the Navan Unit were unable to contain violence and aggression from high risk patients on their own. 

There was also no security guard at the unit, and there were no swipe card-operated magnetic doors to segregate and contain high risk patients. As a consequence of these failures, nurses suffered personal injuries, the HSA said.

The HSE was fined €10,000, plus costs of €13,000 in front of Judge Terence O’Sullivan.

Mark Cullen, Assistant Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority, said: “Where there is a known risk of violence and aggression in a workplace, employers have a duty to ensure that the appropriate precautions are in place and staff are protected.

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“Failure by the HSE to do so in this case led to serious injuries for the staff concerned,” he said. 

In a statement to The Journal, the HSE said it “accepts the ruling at Trim Circuit Court following prosecution by the Director of Public Prosecutions (at the suit of the Health & Safety Authority) regarding an incident in which three HSE employees were assaulted on August 29th 2016 in the former Department of Psychiatry, Navan prior to its closure. The HSE entered a plea of guilty in the case.”

“The safety of staff is a priority for the HSE and we deeply regret this incident occurred resulting in injury to our staff,” it said.

While the charges in the case were specifically related to the incident of August 29th 2016 in the now closed Navan Department of Psychiatry, the HSE is committed to use the learning from this case to contribute to the safe operation of current services.

“Changes to the built environment and to clinical practice related to the management of violence and aggression have been implemented and we continue to assess the requirement for further measures.

“The HSE will continue to engage with the Health & Safety Authority as we develop policy and systems to ensure safe workplaces for our staff.”

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Jane Moore

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