The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called for increased security across all areas of hospital campuses after a large rise in assaults on nurses.
This comes as figures reveal that over five nurses were physically, verbally or sexually assaulted a day in the month of June.
In 2021, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) recorded 7,477 inspections but only 446 inspections in health and social care settings, compared to 2,865 in construction
INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “These assault figures are unacceptable and unfortunately not news to our union. As we continually highlight overcrowding, Covid care and its restrictions and poor staffing levels all add to this increasing problem. Nurses are facing the brunt of physical and verbal aggression in hospital. In some cases, our members are victims of career ending assaults. Anecdotally we know that many nurses and midwives do not report many of the incidents that take place in our hospitals because they do not have support to do so.
“The pressure cooker type environment that our members work in is leading to more assaults. This means that frontline staff are being put at risk for conditions they are not responsible for."
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said security at hospital campuses is a "basic need that is not fulfilled".
While levels of assaults are higher in emergency departments, she said 24-hour security is required in all areas of hospitals.
Many assaults are occurring in parts of hospitals where security staff are not available.
“Soothing words from their employer and an acknowledgment of the scale of the problem is not enough for our members at this stage. In the last year, 90 per cent of our members reported being mentally exhausted during or after work. Inadequate safety protections only add to the burnout.
“Nurses and midwives need hospital management to use the powers they have and support staff and make complaints to gardai - zero tolerance is required and that is not the case at present."
"The Health and safety Authority need to play an enhanced role in tackling assaults of nurses. There must be more inspections, prosecutions of employers who fail to keep staff safe. There must be a dedicated division established within the HSA to deal directly with the health service."
Ms Ní Sheaghdha said the INMO has made this request directly to Government and the HSA.
“Hospitals are not just places of care, they are workplaces. We need to know what measures are being put in place to protect a largely female work force. The employer’s remit is to provide a safe workplace. This level of reported incidence is completely unacceptable.”