Health worker being headbutted logged among violent incidents at Cork hospital last year

Dublin hospital reports more than 500 instances of violence and aggression towards staff in 2021

A patient who headbutted and tried to gouge a healthcare worker’s eye, another who threw toilet cleaner on to staff members, and a young patient who tried to bite staff during an “explosive outburst” were among the violent incidents logged at one hospital last year.

Cork University Hospital reported 103 separate instances of violence, harassment and aggression towards staff members in 2021.

At another of the country’s busiest hospitals there were 523 separate incidents last year, including eight cases of sexual assault reported and another 19 of sexual harassment.

The Mater hospital in Dublin said of the 500-plus cases of violence and aggression at their hospital in 2021, 45 of them — including 39 physical assaults — had been considered of “moderate” risk or danger.


University Hospital Limerick said it had 169 incidents last year, with nine staff members suffering minor injuries because of direct physical assaults.

There was also one case of moderate injury suffered in a case of “intimidation/threat”, according to data they released under a freedom-of-information request.

In a sampling of major hospitals nationwide, Galway University Hospitals said only serious incidents were recorded because incidents of abuse and harassment are so “frequent”.

They said they logged 98 such cases last year in relation to violence, aggression and harassment of staff working at University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital.

A detailed log of incidents from Cork University Hospital revealed there were five cases where the healthcare worker required medical treatment from an assault.

Earlier this week, it emerged that a total of 7,307 assaults on staff were logged by the Health Service Executive between the start of last year and July 2022. Nursing staff, the single biggest job category in the health service, were worst affected, having suffered 4,420 assaults over the 19-month period. Some 2,442 assaults were reported by “other staff” and 232 by allied health professionals.