More than 40 staff across South/South West hospitals were assaulted in the first five months of 2019, it has been revealed.
HSE figures, provided to the Sinn Fein, show that 279 health service workers were assaulted – with 249 of those assaults being committed against nurses and midwives.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has blamed the issue on understaffing, overcrowding and a lack of capacity, which the union described as creating a “pressure cooker environment”.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said that any assault on a frontline health worker is completely unacceptable.
“ Nurses are clearly bearing the brunt of assaults - facing nearly 90% of attacks,” she added.
“But these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.
“Many more assaults go unreported, as nurses are often too busy to stop work and do the paperwork,” said Ms Ní Sheaghdha.
“The statistics also do not include voluntary hospitals, where problems are likely just as bad.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly described the number of assaults on staff in hospitals across the State as “staggeringly high” and said that the safety of staff needs to be better prioritised.
“The safety of the excellent staff in our health service as they discharge their duties is paramount.
“Any assault or attempted assault on a member of the health service as they try to do their job is unacceptable.
“The HSE, and the Minister for Health need to increase measures to reduce the number of assaults our nurses face.”
“I urge the HSE to directly employ more security staff in emergency departments and throughout hospitals to ensure hospital employees are protected.”
The Echo revealed last year that almost 400 members of staff at Cork University Hospital were physically assaulted in the past decade.
There have been nearly 10,000 attacks on acute hospital staff across Ireland in the past 10 years, over 70% of which were against nurses.