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'Traumatised': Seventh nurse attacked by patient in Kerry psychiatric unit

Six other attacks on nurses took place in a ten-day period earlier this month.
Jun 27th 2014, 6:55 AM 13,381 23

A SEVENTH NURSE has been attacked by a patient in the psychiatric unit of Kerry General Hospital.

The attack took place yesterday morning.

From 7-17 June, six other nurses were attacked in separate incidents.

A female patient struck a female nurse in the face and head yesterday.

Cormac Williams, branch leader of the Psychiatric Nurses Association in Kerry, told TheJournal.ie that the nurse in question had been left “traumatised and sore”.

“In general people are pretty scared. Nurses are slow to come in, even though the HSE are offering overtime. People are reluctant to do overtime when you’re coming into an unsafe environment.”

It’s the most dangerous working location in Kerry, I don’t think anywhere else could say they have had six assaults in a ten-day period.

Williams said the assaults are a result of “dwindling and dwindling” staff numbers. He said that Kerry had lost about 25% of its psychiatric nurses in the last few years, noting that those retiring were not being replaced.

“In any hospital – psychiatric or other – if you have low staffing, you have high risk. You can apply that to any given situation.”

He added that none of the attacks were too serious, but involved kicking and punching.

[The nurses] are disillusioned and demoralised, it’s not a very nice environment to work in. It’s very tense.

Williams said that the situation was not good for patients, either.

“It’s not a very conducive environment to patients getting well. You need to be in a calm environment that’s conducive to recovery.”

An inspector from the Health and Safety Authority visited the hospital on Monday to evaluate the situation. A spokesperson from the HSA confirmed that an investigation is ongoing.

St Finan’s

Williams said that the unit in Kerry General Hospital has had to deal with extra patients with challenging behaviour since St Finan’s Hospital in Killarney closed last year.

He said that a new four-bed facility due to be opened at the hospital in September may alleviate some of the pressure. However, he warned that there may not be enough nurses to run it.

“Staffing has got so reduced, people are very disillusioned.”

Williams said that the HSE recently started closing psychiatric day centres throughout the county on certain days due to staffing concerns.

He claimed that patients were having to reschedule appointments as a result.

Mother-and-baby home inquiry

Williams also called for psychiatric institutions to be included in the mother-and-baby homes inquiry.

He said that in the past many women were institutionalised “if they didn’t fit in with what was the norm of Irish society”.

Williams added that public recognition of their “injustice” was “the least they deserve”.

Read: TD says sending children to adult psychiatric units is ‘inhumane’

Read: It’s not just Tuam… Mother-and-baby probe needs to examine at least 100 institutions, Minister told

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Órla Ryan

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