The general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Phil Ní Sheaghdha has warned that hospitals should have the same focus on safety in the workplace as is employed in the farming and construction industry.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha is calling for increased security across all areas of hospitals in Ireland with more than five nurses a day being physically, verbally or sexually assaulted last month.
In an interview with The Hard Shoulder, on Newstalk, Ms Ní Sheaghdha said that workplace safety in hospitals is often forgotten or not discussed.
“The number of assaults against healthcare workers is on the increase. And unfortunately 60 percent of all assaults are against nurses and midwives.
“This is of huge concern to us – obviously we’ve raised it with the employer, the HSE, the Department of Health and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).”
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said that it is because it is a workplace that provides care sometimes it is forgotten in respect of protecting workers while they are at work.
The INMO is set to meet with the HSA next month. Ms Ní Sheaghdha said they have one main message to deliver.
“We will be saying to them, when we meet them, that what we actually want is… the same level of focus from that authority that has been brought to construction and our farms.
“Equally, they have examples unfortunately of very dangerous workplaces – but also fatal outcomes.
“We want the same protections for the health sector, it is a workplace.
“Workers who go to work there – nurses, midwives – they cannot have situations where their career ends as a result of an assault or a verbal attack.”
It’s just simply not acceptable.
She said they cannot just keep examining and recording that these assaults are taking place.
“Inspections happening but nothing changing. So the piece we’re really interested in, in order to protect our members, is to make sure… that protective notifications are put in place.
“But also that employers that do not protect their staff, that there is a penalty for them.”
The INMO said in 2021 the Health and Safety Authority recorded 7477 inspections but only 446 inspections in health and social care settings, compared to 2865 in construction.
Figures obtained by the INMO through the HSE’s National Incident Management Scheme shows that in 2020 over 8,667 staff reported physical, verbal and sexual assault in the workplace.
Nurses and midwives made up 48 percent of this cohort with 4, 166 nurses and midwives reportng some type of assault.