Patients abusing hospital staff

22:42, May 24 2014

Verbal and physical abuse of hospital workers by patients is an ongoing problem and is under reported in Taranaki.

A report published in the New Zealand Medical Journal yesterday found 93 per cent of hospital workers in New Zealand had experienced verbal anger from a patient in the last year, and 65 per cent had experienced physical aggression.

A further 38 per cent reported being physically assaulted, while one in 10 had been sexually assaulted, 12 per cent had been stalked and 39 per cent sexually harassed.

And it's not just hospital workers who have to put up with threatening behaviour from their patients.

St John Taranaki district operations manager Ian May said ambulance officers were not immune to serious abuse.

"There is a continuum of mild abuse through to serious abuse. Nationally for St John a good example of horrendous abuse is that of a Hamilton officer who had her ambulance stopped and people tried to hijack her and assaulted her. So you've got that extreme."

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There was also a more recent case in Palmerston North where an ambulance officer was badly assaulted, he said.

"Those (examples) are at the top end but in the normal routine aspect of our job there is an element of abuse from certain patients usually involving alcohol or drugs."

Taranaki District Health Board quality and risk manager Anne Kemp said verbal and physical abuse of health professionals by patients was under reported at the DHB.

The issue was taken very seriously and support was given to staff if they wanted to go to the police about patients who seriously abused, threatened or assaulted them while they were at work, she said.

"We have numerous proactive, monitoring and communication activities in place."

The Emergency Department and Mental Health areas were the most affected and there were strategies in place to prevent or take action to decrease the impact on staff, she said.

The DHB was continually looking at ways of preventing events including the education of staff, review of near miss and actual events and the identification of any trends.

It was important to make it clear to patients and their visitors that staff needed to be able to get on with the job free from abuse, violence and aggression and that staff would call the police, she said. "Monitoring of our abuse events is ongoing with a summary of the events reported."

Taranaki Daily News