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3,500 assault reports Thousands of physical and verbal attacks reported by frontline workers over last seven years

Time for HSE to conduct audit on what security measures are in place at each hospital, says nursing union chief

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The Ireland East Hospital Group has logged 3,500 attack reports on nurses and doctors in the past seven years. Photo: Posed/Depositphotos

The Ireland East Hospital Group has logged 3,500 attack reports on nurses and doctors in the past seven years. Photo: Posed/Depositphotos

The Ireland East Hospital Group has logged 3,500 attack reports on nurses and doctors in the past seven years. Photo: Posed/Depositphotos

Frontline staff working in the largest hospital group in the country have made 3,500 assault reports in the last seven years.

A geographic breakdown of reported assaults reveals that nurses and doctors in the Ireland East Hospital Group – which consists of 11 hospitals – were on the receiving end of thousands of verbal and physical attacks.

While the number of assaults reported across the majority of hospital groups in Ireland slightly declined in the first year of the pandemic, the Ireland East group recorded its highest number of assault reports in 2020, with 596 among nurses and 36 among doctors.

Figures provided by the HSE from their national incident management scheme show that staff working in acute hospitals and community healthcare organisations reported assaults 34,602 times between 2015 and 2021.

Hospitals in the east of the country and community healthcare services in the west reported the highest number of incidents.

Staff working in community healthcare organisations (CHO) in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon made 3,409 assault reports, with 3,357 of those on nurses and 52 on doctors.

The Ireland East Hospital Group includes seven Dublin hospitals, St Luke’s in Kilkenny, Wexford General Hospital, Our Lady’s Hospital in Meath and the Midlands Regional Hospital.

Since 2015, there have been 3,468 attack reports among nurses and 116 among doctors.

The HSE said it “continues to encourage the reporting of all incidents, regardless of the level of harm, if any”.

Assaults include physical, verbal or sexual attacks on staff, while incidents are categorised into harmful, not harmful, near misses, dangerous occurrences or complaints.

“When considering the figures in the report, it should be noted that staff are encouraged to report all ‘near misses’ and incidents – even those that do not result in harm,” the HSE said.

“Hence, the number of incident reports should not be considered as indicative of a level of harm. There may also be multiple reports relating to the same incident.”

The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group made 2,371 assault reports, the South West Hospital Group recorded 1,766 and the RCSI Hospital Group 1,143.

Saolta University Health Care Group recorded 862, while University of Limerick hospitals reported 635.

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More than 21,000 frontline staff working in community healthcare organisations – which include primary care, social care and mental health services – also reported assaults.

Nurses and doctors in Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan, Sligo and Leitrim (CHO area 1) made 3,105 assault reports, while staff in Dublin north, Dublin north-west and the north inner city (CHO area 9) made 2,664 assault reports.

There were more than 2,600 incidents reported in Cork and Kerry (CHO area 4), and also in Laois, Longford, Offaly, Westmeath, Louth and Meath (CHO area 8).

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), warned that there is “an underreporting of incidents”.

“We haven’t had a security audit of our hospitals since 2016,” she said.

“It is time now for the HSE to complete a full audit of what measures are in place in each hospital, particularly in emergency departments.”

”We know that our nurses and midwives are physically and mentally exhausted at the moment, the last thing they need is to be worrying about the potential of being assaulted in work.

“This is a matter that the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority must invest more time and effort into focusing on the real and present dangers each day for nurses and midwives to develop strong effective measures to prevent these occurrences.”

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