A CORK TD has called for the establishment of committees aimed at developing greater consultation between healthcare staff and An Garda Síochána in a bid to reduce incidents of assaults in hospitals around the country.
Fine Gael TD for Cork North Central Colm Burke, who is the party’s spokesperson on health, said he has proposed the formation of committees similar to Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) established to achieve synergy on policing and crime issues between An Garda Síochána, local authorities, and elected local representatives.
Speaking to The Echo, Mr Burke said unions, union reps, hospital management, and gardaí should regularly meet in each individual hospital to discuss any safety issues.
“That way gardaí would be aware of any concerns and could then respond appropriately. That’s one thing that should be easy enough to establish. We need to make sure we protect those who are providing healthcare,” Mr Burke said.
“If we have particular problems at particular hospitals then we need to have additional security put in place.”
Mr Burke’s comments came as representatives for the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) appeared before the Oireachtas health committee calling for greater supports to ensure the safety and welfare of its members.
INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said that between January 2021 and October 2022, there were 5,593 reported assaults against nursing and midwifery staff.
“We know that this figure does not include assaults against nurses and midwives in Section 38 facilities, we also know that many nurses and midwives don’t report incidents of assault.
“It is not acceptable that in a profession that is overwhelmingly made up of women, that at least 10 assaults occur every single day,” she said.
“We must ensure that all nurses and midwives working in the health service can do so without a threat to their safety, dignity, and bodily and psychological integrity.
“Employers must take a preventative approach to protect those exposed to violence in the workplace in accordance with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
“Where an employer has failed in their duty under this Act resulting in the injury of workers, they should be subject to prosecution.”
Ms Ní Sheaghdha also renewed the INMO’s call for a full review and audit of security systems and protocols in Irish hospitals.
“An audit has not been completed since 2016, and as recent tragic events in the Mercy Hospital have shown, it is time to rectify this situation,” she said.
She also told committee members that basic safety cannot be guaranteed in understaffed and overcrowded wards and emergency departments.
“The best way to attract staff and to keep nurses, midwives and the patients they are trying their best to care for safe is to have enough staff.”